It’s been a tough year for all of us, but kids in particular have been significantly impacted by a year of remote or hybrid learning, disrupted routines and a lack of socialization and normal activities. Anxiety and depression have skyrocketed, social-emotional skills have taken a hit and many children have fallen behind in those all-important literacy skills, one of the strongest indicators of a child’s future success.
A UN study found that “100 million more children will fail basic reading skills because of Covid.” In 2020, the number of children with reading difficulties worldwide jumped 20%. This has huge implications for these children’s futures, including increased risk of dropping out of school and living in poverty.
Research shows students who don’t read and engage in learning activities in the summer are likely to fall behind their peers. This problem affects low-income kids, who may lack access to reading materials and educational opportunities in the summer at higher rates. While the data varies and one recent study indicates that the effects of the “summer slide” learning loss may be overstated, kids who read during the summer tend to maintain and even increase their literacy skills, such as vocabulary, comprehension and communications skills. It exercises the imagination. Reading also has emotional benefits and has been shown to increase empathy and decrease stress.
The Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF) provides fun author’s visits and free books through its Summer Readers program. They send Vermont and New Hampshire children’s authors, illustrators and storytellers to places where kids spend time in the summer — camps, rec programs, summer schools, meal sites, libraries — and gives each child two new books of their choice.
CLiF Program Manager Jana Brown says, “Our goal is for CLiF’s free literacy programs and book giveaways to keep children engaged with reading throughout the summer. Literacy is a focal point for learning re-engagement as our partners move forward with their Covid recovery and learning re-engagement plans and we look forward to continuing to provide professional literacy programs and new, high-quality books.”
Kids are far more likely to enjoy reading and do it often when they get to choose their own books. So, CLiF provides hundreds of diverse books to choose from so that everyone finds something they’ll enjoy. It’s also important to not make reading a chore; remember, it’s fun! Kids should see it that way. Take them to the library often, if you can, and encourage them to find books that meet their interests and needs. Librarians are very good at this.
One of the best things you can do for your child this summer is to provide books and let them read what and where they want. Let them see you doing it, too. Read together (if they’ll allow it). Talk about books and stories. Ask questions. Encourage them to write their own stories and offer to read them, if they want. Promoting literacy is one of the best ways to help them prepare for the future and to make sense of a bewildering year.
Erika Nichols Frazer, Waitsfield
Editor’s note: Nichols is the communications manager at CLiF.