Capitalizing on the Pandemic for Positive Learning

This is a guest post by Mary Curcio, NYS Regional Coordinator. 

We all know children have suffered losses in student learning during the pandemic.  However, research suggests that by using the right parent support tools, it is possible to mitigate or offset these losses by compensating and enriching student learning. Read to Them’s family literacy programs provide some of these necessary, dynamic tools to help parents and schools create actual new learning opportunities while the pandemic persists.

Students returning in the fall of 2021 may be up to a year behind in age-appropriate reading levels, as confirmed by a recent study by the McKinsey firm.  Based on their assessment, students have lost at least 3 months of learning in reading during spring 2020. Students could lose five to nine months of learning by the end of June 2021: for students of color, it could be up to twelve months. Some of our most vulnerable children will enter first grade without ever attending kindergarten-a crucial, primary year in preparing children for school.

Reading regression and the summer slide have always been an issue for students, and both have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Even more troubling, students at risk – students of color and poorer students – have suffered even larger gaps in their reading skills. Addressing the loss of those skills will require more than interventions from school districts. 

You know that old expression, “It takes a village…”

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is focused on improving student success in reading. They know parents want opportunities, access to information, support, and tools to succeed in their new roles as teachers at home. “Left unattended, learning loss especially in the early grades could further compromise the prospects for a generation of vulnerable children whose future is already at risk.”

When schools closed, it was up to parents to navigate digital tools like Zoom and other learning resources provided by school districts. This was a challenge for families, but they committed to helping their children learn.  However, as the pandemic limps on, school leaders have seen family engagement waning.

Recent research from the Columbia Law School for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) found student learning and engagement during the pandemic benefitted students when school districts partnered with parents. They completed over three-hundred interviews and discovered that with proper family support and quality instructional materials, students learned the same amount as in a normal school year.

Read to Them supports the premise of the CPRL Report by offering schools and families the literacy materials and tools they need to make reading enjoyable. Our programs give parents an opportunity to read with their children outside of school walls, to gather and share a story together in the warmth of the home. 

Families were heavily involved with their children’s learning last year; their involvement is still needed to resolve setbacks in children’s learning. Research shows that children perform better academically with family support.  With continued parent and community engagement with schools, it is entirely possible that children can reach their projected reading level.