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Coronavirus and Literacy: Missing Class, But Not Learning Opportunities

Updated: Mar 27, 2020

By Carol MacDonald Connor

Until schools reopen, K-12 students will be missing a significant amount of school time. As educational researchers, we know there are educational costs to missing school. As one of us shows in a recent book and prior studies, missing even one school day has consequences for students’ test performance, readiness for the next grade, and social skills.

But, the research also informs how parents and guardians can support children’s learning, even while at home.

Reading is one of the best ways to engage children of all ages – and is an important activity if your child is home from school.

● Read every day.

● Allow your child to read in any and all languages s/he is comfortable with.

● If your teacher has sent learning materials home, work with your child to complete them.

● Engage pre-readers with picture books. When possible, use Dialogic Reading. In Dialogic

Reading, you help your child become the teller of the story while you listen, ask questions and become the audience. The acronym PEER helps you remember what to do: Prompt your child to say something about the book; Evaluate your child’s response; Expand your child’s response by adding information (child: “bird”; you: “Right, that’s a yellow bird!”); and Repeat the prompt. Do this on each page of the book.

● For beginning readers, let your child read to you. What do you do if your child doesn’t know a word? Don’t just tell them the word. It is important that new readers learn strategies that will help them become proficient independent readers. If the difficult word is a compound word, like “cowboy,” cover the “cow” and ask them to read “boy.” Then ask them to read “cow” and then put the two word together. Sounding out words - using phonics - is one of the best strategies to figure out unknown words. For example, for “apple” have your child make each sound in the word, “a-p-l” and then blend the sounds together. Try to find books that are easy to decode. Your child’s school librarian can help.

● For older children who are readers, get a great book and read it together. If your child does not have books at home, check out free e-book offerings from the Library of Congress or your public library; you can also ask your child’s teacher to send a couple books home for the long term. If you read most of the story, that’s okay. The idea is to read the book for enjoyment and revel in the story. Make voices for the characters and use hand gestures to emphasis points. Discuss the motivations of the characters and whether their decisions make sense. Let your child ask questions. A weekly family book group night may be a good way to engage teenagers in reading.

● Audio books, especially if you listen to them together, are enjoyable and build language skills.

● Provide a quiet area for your child to read alone. Let your child choose the book, but be sure s/he can read it independently. If your child can’t read 90% of the words, s/he should choose a different book.

● Do not substitute video or television for reading. The more your child reads, the better reader s/he will become.

Carol McDonald Connor, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is a Chancellor’s Professor in Education at University of California, Irvine. Her research investigates individual child differences and the links between children’s language and literacy development with the goal of illuminating reasons for the perplexing difficulties children who are atypical and diverse learners, including children with dyslexia, have developing basic and advanced literacy skills.

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