Post-Covid: Supporting Our Youngest Readers – Part 1

This month marks two years since Covid descended on our world, changing life and learning as we knew it. Students in every grade have suffered as parents and teachers tried their best to support their educational progress. Clearly, some of our most disadvantaged children are those who were in Kindergarten, first and second grade when the pandemic surged. Distance learning and irregular routines are not the ideal way to begin your education.

Over the year, several parents have reached out to me for help. Worried sick that their child isn’t making adequate progress, they confided in seeing not only frustration about reading, but a lack of confidence that sometimes led to behavior issues both at home and in school. What to do?

First, let me say that I admire the ability of these parents to face a problem head on and attempt to discover how they can best support their children. In the last fifteen years of my career as a reading specialist, I worked primarily with fourth, fifth and sixth graders. I also was trained in Reading Recovery, which allowed me to work one-on-one with struggling first graders. Once support began, first grade students soared, usually gaining the skills, strategies and confidence that brought them up to benchmark level within several months. Older students, on the other hand, moved at a much slower pace. Many of those children should have had support during the primary grades, so it was more difficult to remediate them and bring them up to grade level reading. My point is that determining early if your child needs reading intervention, is in everyone’s best interest.

No doubt your next question is, “What should I do to determine if my child needs reading support?” The first step is to set up a personal meeting with your child’s teacher that will allow you the time and space for an honest discussion. Here are some questions to guide that meeting:

What do you see as my child’s strengths as a student and as a reader?

What do you see as his weaknesses?

How does my child’s reading progress compare to same grade level students?

What is the benchmark for reading at this point in time?

Is my child on, above or below the benchmark?

What is my child’s independent reading level? (Ability to read text at 95% to 100% accuracy).

What is my child’s instructional level? (Ability to read text at 90% to 94% accuracy).

How would you rate my child’s performance in these areas of reading development: Letter recognition, phonemic awareness, comprehension, fluency, writing?

How well is my child able to decode difficult words in context? Does he use visual and meaning and sound cues?

Do you think my child needs additional support, either through school or through a private tutor?

Could the reading specialist test my child?

Come to the meeting prepared, not only with your list of questions, but with a list of things that you are seeing at home that cause you to be concerned. Trust the teacher, but be proactive. If you child is falling behind, finding the appropriate support as early as possible is key to his progress and well-being.

Seeing how the pandemic derailed the education of our youngest students, I’m convinced that parents need and deserve as much support as possible. I will be devoting every Thursday blog post for the next several weeks to this topic. If your child is in Kindergarten, first or second grade, these posts will provide valuable information and practical tips to get and keep your child on the road to reading success.

Feel free to ask any pertinent questions in your comments and I will do my best to answer them.

About Rita K.

Educator and Certified Reading specialist
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