Parents’ power to help children read during pandemic

Child reading | Photo by @jeanellnicolereads via Instagram

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Today we’re hearing from Dr. Amanda M. Butler – assistant professor at Charleston Southern University in the College of Education – about how parents in South Carolina can help their children avoid reading setbacks during the coronavirus pandemic. 

COVID-19 has changed the structure of classroom instruction, and it is too early to know if, or to what extent, students’ learning will be impacted. Literacy rates in the Lowcountry were low before the pandemic, as data from South Carolina’s literacy assessment suggests a mere 50% of students in the  third-eighth grade are struggling to read + comprehend grade-level text. (The 2019-2020 state assessments were suspended.)

Parents’ fears of their children falling behind are completely justified. Well, good news parents. You can play a vital role to avoid reading setbacks and keep your kiddos on track.

 Research shows that knowledge gained from previous experiences may significantly increase a poor reader’s comprehension of the text. How does that work? Let’s say your child’s class is reading about stalactites and stalagmites and your family visited a cave this summer. Your child’s text comprehension will likely be higher than students who have never stepped foot in a cave, even if the other students are more proficient readers. 

Charleston is overflowing with history, art + culture, so stop and smell the roses, read the historical markers, and go explore.

If a local adventure is not an option for your family, offer a mental retreat instead and transport your kiddos by reading to them. This may sound entirely too simple (and maybe a little hokey), but decades of research have shown that reading to children and talking about the story while reading is one of the best ways to teach about personal values, culture, the world around them, and other complex ideas. Bonus: children who are read to on a regular basis have larger vocabularies than their peers.

Skip the bookstore and head to your local library. Some libraries have re-opened with limited or fully restored hours and even offer curbside pickup. You may even be able to build your own home library for free through Begin With Books, a Charleston County affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

When choosing books to read, focus on age-appropriate content. Don’t worry about getting books that are too advanced for your child to read because you are the reader, and they are the listener.

Parents, we cannot worry about what we can’t control. (Trust me, your child’s teacher is worrying enough for the both of you anyway.) Explore with your kiddos and read with them because this is within your control, and it will make a significant impact in your child’s education – just wait and see.