I am sure you have heard some version of this question from school leaders, teachers, and parents, “What is going to be done to address the loss of instruction to mitigate learning loss?” The pandemic has added a new layer of complexities, making this question difficult because there is no one-size-fits-all solution. We must all work together on behalf of our students to provide the necessary supports to ensure that no child falls through the cracks.
Some districts and schools are continuing to struggle with teacher shortages, staff, and student absences due to COVID positivity rates increasing daily. We must think outside the box to develop creative and innovative ways to ensure that no child is left behind.
Parent Engagement and Student Achievement
Parents want what is best for their children, but supporting instruction at home has been described as overwhelming and challenging over the past two years. Some parents were tasked with supporting multiple children who participated in virtual learning, and they were also responsible for working remotely. Virtual instruction was a steep learning curve for parents and their children. And we must not forget how teachers also were required to pivot using traditional curriculum resources for online learning with little to no training about how to prepare virtual lesson plans, differentiate instruction, and assessments to ensure students were making adequate progress.
Everyone is concerned about learning loss, especially parents who witnessed first-hand the impact of school closure on their children’s academic, behavioral, and social-emotional learning. School administrators and teachers must provide resources to help parents support their children learn to read at proficient and advanced levels.
The bottom line for parents is, what can they do to help their child at home and address the ‘pandemic slide’ in reading to accelerate learning.
Make Reading Part of your Daily Routine
Teachers can send home a book that students are interested in reading or sharing with their parents. Parents should create a structured routine and ritual for a read-aloud or shared reading so that their child knows what to expect each day.
For example, an early morning routine could consist of a book on tape, and the child can listen on their way to school and on the way home. The parent and child can talk about the book on tape to ensure they are increasing their ability to listen actively and, more importantly, develop core reading skills such as vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. Each night before bedtime, a child can either read to their parents, or their parents can read a book to them and discuss the book during breakfast.
Parents communicate their values about education by their actions. This means that the home environment should also have a space or corner with comfortable seating and some of their child’s favorite books. Children should be included in creating the space and let them select things to decorate the area.
It’s important to set aside time to use this space daily even if parents only have a few minutes because their child will eventually develop a love and habit for reading which includes seeing their parent(s) reading a favorite book or spending time reading to them or listening to them read.
Select Books That Children Love Reading
Based on the research about active engagement, we know that children are more likely to love reading when they are passionate about the subject, topic, or genre. How can we ensure that we develop lifelong learners? We must help children select books of interest that connect to their interests, hobbies, history, or real-life experiences.
For example, suppose a child is interested in Dinosaurs. In that case, parents can select books on this topic that provide historical information and connections to science and math that will keep their child actively engaged in learning everything there is to know about Dinosaurs. Parents should encourage their children to read aloud and learn how to provide support if they struggle with phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, or comprehension. For children to become proficient in reading, they must master the core foundational skills of reading.
Parents need resources that they can access at home, and we have selected a few that will help them develop the habits of good readers and writers.
Flyleaf Publishing – Flyleaf’s decodable books provide beginning and struggling readers with abundant opportunities to transfer their newly acquired phonics knowledge to meaningful, engaging, complex narratives, informational texts, and poetry.
Reading A-Z – These decodable books provide children with the opportunity to learn their alphabets, sound/symbol, and read-aloud books for shared and guided reading.
ReadWorks.org – This is a comprehensive approach to teaching children how to read and comprehend text. Read Works provides free reading passages, question sets, vocabulary, articles, paired texts, lesson plans, ebooks, and student tools.
These resources will help parents to get started at home. Teachers must share with parents that it’s very important not to just read to their children. Their child should be reading to them, and they must listen carefully to the words that their child reads aloud to ensure they are not guessing unfamiliar words by using picture cues. If this is the case, they should encourage their child to use their decoding skills when encountering an unfamiliar word because this helps build vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.
It’s extremely important to select a variety of books; some books should be just right, and others should be complex text. Children should spend at least 15-30 minutes a day reading to improve critical thinking skills, cognition, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, and writing skills. Most children watch television, which could be an opportunity to introduce them to the YouTube channel. The Youtube channels below provide children with opportunities to interact, follow along, and it’s a great way to supplement learning to read for early literacy development.
Parents Should Use Technology To Support Literacy Instruction
If you use a particular laptop, tablet, or cell phone to read parts of a story, then make this device solely for learning – especially with younger children. If they are allowed to also use this device for fun and games, they will want to use it for this purpose only instead of as a learning tool to support literacy instruction. While digital devices can be great to access resources, they also emit a lot of blue light, which can lead to sleep issues, so it is important to ensure that you switch them off at least an hour before bedtime.
Develop Knowledge of Letters, Words, and Sounds
Literacy can always be improved by learning new words and expanding a young person’s vocabulary. Encourage children to learn new words, letters, or sounds through engaging activities. This could be through alphabet magnets, Play-Doh, or sound cards for younger children. For older children who already grasp sounds and letters, try puzzles such as crosswords or word searches.
The most important thing is that you encourage them to read a few minutes every day because they will develop extensive vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension skills over time.