- Pandemic-related school closures have been particularly vexing for those teaching young students to read, as remote learning can compound disparities since some learners don’t have access to the same technology, connectivity or parental support as their peers, Chalkbeat reports.
- In Chicago, it is unclear how many students fell behind in reading during the pandemic, though district spokesperson James Gherardi said the youngest learners have been most impacted. The gap was also difficult to track because teachers had been using their own preferred curricula in a decentralized district system.
- Part of the problem is that students’ learning environments are not equitable. To bridge the gap in Chicago, the district is implementing a new curriculum initiative called Skyline — touted as having focuses on phonics, cultural relevancy and bilingual support — as part of a $135-million effort to create new instructional material.
Pre-pandemic, students lost about a month of grade-level-equivalent learning during the summer. When the pandemic forced schools to transition to remote learning in spring 2020, a report from NWEA predicted 3rd-graders’ RIT scores would drop well below mid-March 2020 levels once they were reassessed.
There are a number of steps educators can take to engage students and reverse the reading loss trend. Presenting students with rich stories featuring interesting characters and plots has always been critical. Teachers can keep the engagement going by having deep conversations about the books, and those who teach younger students can become more creative by using body movements and sounds that demonstrate reading patterns during read-alouds.
One teacher even reached out to Harrison Phillips — a defensive end for the NFL's Buffalo Bills — for help inspiring a student to read. Phillips responded by encouraging the student to try his favorite series, “Horrible Harry.”
However, remote learning has also come with the problem that some students just don’t engage in online lessons and conversations, leaving their cameras off and remaining muted. Also, a report from the National Institute for Early Education Research also found parents of children ages 3 to 5 read less frequently to them during the pandemic.