Cold weather and snow hit most of the county last week, and here in Indianapolis, various districts had e-learning days. While teachers and schools are giving their best efforts, the education many children receive does not meet the standard needed to ensure they have a chance when they get older.
The more I think about the loss of in-person instructional days for my students and students around the country, I get concerned with whether they are receiving the education they deserve. While it has been almost a year of this virtual learning space, and teachers have drastically improved, I still worry about the outcomes for academic performance.
I came across this article, “It’s OK If Your Kid Doesn’t Learn To Read This Year,” and the title certainly got my attention. This article was not written by anyone who understands what it is like to teach or lead in a school where 90% of the student population is children of color, and 90% of them qualify for free and reduced lunch. When they do attend college, the majority of them will be the first generation. Truthfully, when many of them graduate from high school, they will be the first to do it without earning a GED. I constantly say this when everyone is worried about being anti-racist; the most anti-racist act you can do is to ensure a child of color can read. It is not okay for children not to learn to read this year because next year will be too late.
The author also used a clickbait statement that read, “There has never been a “right” age anyway. And there are far more important lessons for kids to take away from the pandemic.” So, there may not be a right age, but I believe there should be a progression in the development of a child. Grades kindergarten to second grade, children are learning to read. By third grade, they are reading to learn. So, if you want to put an age on it, as a school leader, I am aiming for the end of first-grade for children to learn to read, so that would be by the age of seven. The article also says there is a far more important lessons for kids to take away from this pandemic. I would beg to differ. There are children, mostly affluent and predominantly white, who will not be impacted in the long run by this pandemic. Their runway is a lot longer than my students simply by their birthright. Education is the great equalizer.
I agree with the article that during this time of transition, uncertainty, and constant change, we should ensure our children’s love of learning continues. That should not come at the cost of providing them the skills to learn to read. If we do not focus on the reading foundational skills such as phonological and phonemic awareness, children will suffer and ultimately struggle to read. The joy of reading will be sucked out of them because they will never know the joy of actually being able to read.
It is hard for me to imagine there are people who are willing to not focus on supporting reading for children. I believe the best step we can take this year is to continue to give our children hope and opportunities. Teaching them to read is the hope and opportunity for a brighter future. God willing, we will never experience anything like this in history again. We will give them and their children a better chance to handle this uncertainty if we continue to push through during this pandemic.
While they are many lessons to be learned from the pandemic, in my opinion, the most important lesson students can learn is how powerful it can be to read.