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Students are building their educational foundation with reading during the pandemic

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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the phrase “learning loss” has been used by people who are understandably concerned about how the pandemic has disrupted schools and affected students’ learning. 

Personally, I dislike that phrase. It doesn’t reflect what I saw happening in District 191 schools during the 2020-21 school year when students were learning skills that they’ll use for the rest of their lives to be confident, independent and problem solvers. They learned new technology and new ways to connect with others, and they shared what they learned with peers, even helping our staff navigate a new world of zoom meetings and screen sharing. 

Yes, school was disrupted. It was changed. But our students kept learning. 

And recently, I saw even more evidence to confirm that. An article in Education Week magazine presented results from a study that showed children have been reading more during the pandemic. The study by Common Sense Media found that children ages 8 and under spent an average of 32 minutes a day reading or being read to in 2020, up from 29 minutes a day in 2017. Black students in that age group saw a particularly large increase, going from 28 minutes to 48 minutes of reading per day from 2017 to 2020. 

Reading is the foundation for learning. There is no more important skill for young people to develop to help them grow and be successful in their future. 

That’s why we spend more time on literacy than anything else in our elementary schools. It’s why we spent years selecting our elementary literacy curriculum and framework and years again to make sure it is implemented well. 

Even as students were in school less over the past 18 months, they were reading more, and that tells me that they are still building their foundations. 

Still, the study’s authors pointed out that a crucial factor for children is having quality reading materials available to them, and that there is a benefit to having adults who help students engage text in ways that build comprehension. Our schools and our teachers can provide those materials and engagement, even from a distance, and we will when we need to. 

Of course, we prefer having students in school and we know that’s what’s best for most children. But studies are showing what we saw with our own eyes last year: students are learning and growing, even through a pandemic. 

I encourage you to ask a child or teenager in your life what they are reading and share what you are reading. Currently, I’m reading “What School Could Be” by Ted Dintersmith and “Dictionary for a Better World” by Irene Latham and Charles Waters.

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