COVID LEARNING LOSS – THE 2020 SUMMER SLIDE
Every year, “the big summer slide” holds back the educational progress of millions of American kids.But this year, if we don’t act to avoid a massive COVID Learning Loss, the education gap between high and low-income kids will widen to historic levels. This year, Covid Learning Loss is a real thing, and it’s huge.
Studies show that TWO-THIRDS of the reading level gap in 9th graders can be attributed to the fact that many of them read way less over the summer, and lose proficiency. But it is not just 9th graders. Because kids who aren’t reading at or above grade level by 4th grade rarely catch up. And here we are in May, already starting the slide. No end in sight.
With most schools unlikely to reopen until fall, kids will have lost a lot, even the ones lucky enough to still be going to school via video conferencing. Kids from lower-income families generally fall even further behind. So the “Summer Slide” has come early for millions of American kids this year, and no, that doesn’t mean the slide at the playground or the slip n’ slide in the backyard. It means sliding back from the progress achieved during the school year, and nowhere does this have a more pronounced effect than in reading. And this year, the effect will be felt like never before.
So what can you do, as a parent? How can you avoid COVID Learning Loss?
TOP 2 RULES TO STOP COVID LEARNING LOSS
Rule #1: Read. Read, read, read with your kids. They watch what you do, they want to imitate. You read, they will read. We are all bored, and looking for things to occupy our Stay Safe-Stay Home time. Most parents are trying to structure time during the day for their kids to maintain their own sanity, so make sure that part of that day has at least two 20 minute sessions devoted to reading, longer if possible. And let them stay up ½ hour later … in their bed … but only if they read. Even kids who can’t read will look at picture books, or their favorite books, and pretend to read.
Rule #2: Read. Read, read, read with your kids. Repeat Rule #1!
But even with all of this reading, the reality for most kids now is that the day is less structured and includes less educational content than it did before. That means, we need to find a way to teach our kids that is actually easier. Easier for parents to deliver, but also easier for kids to learn.
WHAT SHOULD YOUR KIDS READ?
To avoid COVID Learning Loss, put your kids in the driver seat (of reading). I had one 5 year old who loved to read chapter books. I had another 5 year old who early on didn’t like reading books at all. But he loved reading encyclopedias about animals, or space, or sports… anything that was only a few sentences long. Both were, and still are, voracious readers, of anything they can get their hands on. So let your kids choose what they read because they are more likely to read what they are interested in. It’s about language early on, not literature. They are discovering how a writer can manipulate words to create feelings, portray mental images, and tell a tale as well as learn stuff.
If your children are too young to read on their own or are just learning to read, the key is to read to them. Let them pick the book, and don’t be surprised if they pick the same books over and over. They love the sounds the words make (don’t you love Pout Pout Fish?) or they go wild over the pictures (anything by Maurice Sendak). They have a fine time with rhyme … you can never go wrong with Dr. Seuss! Point to the words, so they get the idea that a group of letters blends together to make a sound called a word. Soon they will start to recognize those words, especially the fun ones like BAM! and WHOOSH! and GLUG! and THWACK!
A HOUSE WITHOUT BOOKS IS LIKE SOUP WITHOUT SALT
Here’s a hard fact. Households without books produce the majority of the kids who cannot read at or above grade level. But books cost money and are a luxury item to many people. Libraries are helpful to bridge the gap, but right now the libraries are closed, and there is even less money to spend on “luxuries”.
But you have a smartphone. We often hand our kids the phone to keep them occupied at some point, to keep them entertained (and perhaps quiet during an important conference call). How can we make the best possible use of that technology? How can we turn that moment into a mechanism that delivers something that will help them succeed in life? ReadingWorld (available here in beta) is a fun activity to do with your children. And it’s something they can absolutely do on their own (after a few plays). Full of games, and revolutionary way to teach phonemic awareness and reading, ReadingWorld will help them learn to read super fast, and put them on the path to success. There are a lot of other programs to download also, on a wide variety of subjects. Take advantage of them.
KEEP YOUR KIDS SAFE, HEALTHWISE AND READING WISE
Parenting at any time is tough. Right now it is extraordinarily difficult. As caregivers to our children, we have an even greater obligation to see that not only do we keep them safe by keeping them healthy, but that we keep them safe from falling behind in their reading ability. This is the single most important factor in a child’s success … the ability to read above grade level proficiency. It’s ok to use your phone to help you get through this. And by the way, there are lots of free books for you to read too!
So let’s stop the Covid Learning Slide, and every Summer Slide from here on forward! READ, READ, READ. About happy things. Fun things. Interesting things. Any things. And while you are reading with your kids, don’t forget to snuggle.
Stay Safe. Stay Home.