A Simple Way to Help Kids Recover from Covid School Closures

 

Last week in the Wall Street Journal, one of their columnists who rarely appears elsewhere did a short, very interesting op-ed column.  The columnist is Meghan Cox Gurdon, their reviewer of children’s books.  As long as I have been reading and enjoying her columns, she has supported and encouraged reading aloud to children from an early age.  Well, it turns out that reading aloud to your kids is an excellent way of improving their reading comprehension, which so many public school kids missed in the past two years.  She cited a study showing that measures of reading skill improved when the kids had been read aloud to.

The results were astounding.  Morale and test results soared.  Children who hated English lessons, who had experienced literature as daunting and indigestible, were practically running into the classroom to find out what was going to happen next in the stories.  Seventeen of the educators used the word “joy” to describe their own experiences of this unorthodox teaching method.  When the children were given reading-comprehension tests afterward, average readers had made 8.5 months of progress while poorer students had made 16 months of progress.  As the study authors observed: “Simply reading challenging, complex novels aloud and at a fast pace in each lesson repositioned ‘poorer readers’ as ‘good readers’, giving them a more engaged uninterrupted reading experience over a sustained period”.

I can testify to this from my own experience in grade-school.  Our sixth-grade teacher read novels aloud to us after lunch every day, and we all listened raptly.  The rambunctious boys in the class quieted right down when the teacher read to us.  Even as an adult, early in our marriage Ray used to read novels aloud to me just before bedtime.  I would often fall asleep before he was done, indicating how relaxing listening made me.

So, parents, if you are struggling with kids who have suffered from the government school closures, here’s an easy way to help them gain back lost learning.

Published in Education
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There are 18 comments.

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  1. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    The reading suggestion is excellent. But I am wondering whether a lot of parents weren’t doing this during the lockdown, and, if so, why not? I understand the social retardation associated with ZOOM school and masking, but I would like to see some breakdown on which students and under what circumstances suffered most. My guess is that the profile of the worst effected is the same as those who were already performing poorly before the pandemic.

    • #1
  2. Dunstaple Coolidge
    Dunstaple
    @Dunstaple

    She cited a study showing that measures of reading skill improved when the kids had been read aloud to.

    The results were astounding.  Morale and test results soared.  Children who hated English lessons, who had experienced literature as daunting and indigestible, were practically running into the classroom to find out what was going to happen next in the stories.  Seventeen of the educators used the word “joy” to describe their own experiences of this unorthodox teaching method.  

    The fact that those last three words could even be written about “reading aloud” is just about the most serious indictment of our educational establishment I can imagine.

    • #2
  3. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

     Seventeen of the educators used the word “joy” to describe their own experiences of this unorthodox teaching method.  

    Unorthodox teaching method? LOL! My parents and teachers did this for me and I did this for my kids. 

    • #3
  4. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Oh, great Ricochet Family…  I have no children of my own, but I am 100% aware that Ricochet Parents are the best in the world.  They don’t need reminding to read aloud to their kids.  But we aren’t a high proportion of the population, so many parents do need to be reminded that kids should take precedence over career.  I admire all our Ricochet members who are raising wonderful children!

    • #4
  5. Flapjack Lincoln
    Flapjack
    @Flapjack

    Unorthodox teaching method?  What in the Wide Wide World of Sports?  Next thing ya know, we’ll be teaching multiplication facts through rote memorization.  Crazy!

    But seriously, there’s nothing better than reading aloud to students and stopping to discuss things.  Best ROI in reading / literature class time, at least when it comes to reading comprehension and delving into the figurative and thematic levels of meaning.  I read everything aloud to my 7th and 8th graders, and they dig it (and their test scores reflect it).  And it’s not just for younger grades.  Want a high schooler to “get” Shakespeare?  Read it out loud to them and discuss as the story unfolds.

    • #5
  6. GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms Reagan
    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms
    @GLDIII

    I always read to the boys when they were young. I got thru the first four Harry Potter books. But then they were such good and avid readers by book 4 they would no longer wait for Dad to read to them and devoured the rest of the series on their own.

    I still have not had the chance to read the last three novels, I guess shame on me.

    • #6
  7. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    I always read to the boys when they were young. I got thru the first four Harry Potter books. But then they were such good and avid readers by book 4 they would no longer wait for Dad to read to them and devoured the rest of the series on their own.

    I still have not had the chance to read the last three novels, I guess shame on me.

    The last three are the best. You find out a whole lot in Half-Blood Prince. You need to allot at least three uninterrupted hours of reading, because once you start it will be very difficult to stop.  I also buy the British editions through Book Depository. You get free shipping and I think they are more authentic than the US editions. 

    • #7
  8. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Dad read to me. A chapter or two every night. Treasure Island. The Last of the Mohicans. Robin Hood. Tom Sawyer. Huckleberry Finn.

    • #8
  9. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Let me preface this by saying I never do a damn thing about this. Whenever I hear professionally read poetry, I I like it and I get a lot out of it and it’s pretty easy to see the point of poetry that way.

    • #9
  10. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    I always read to the boys when they were young. I got thru the first four Harry Potter books. But then they were such good and avid readers by book 4 they would no longer wait for Dad to read to them and devoured the rest of the series on their own.

    I still have not had the chance to read the last three novels, I guess shame on me.

    The last three are the best. You find out a whole lot in Half-Blood Prince. You need to allot at least three uninterrupted hours of reading, because once you start it will be very difficult to stop. I also buy the British editions through Book Depository. You get free shipping and I think they are more authentic than the US editions.

    Get them soon before the thought police come knocking on your to confiscate them.  As you know, HP is by an author whose name must be erased.  

    • #10
  11. Mad Gerald Coolidge
    Mad Gerald
    @Jose

    Percival (View Comment):

    Dad read to me. A chapter or two every night. Treasure Island. The Last of the Mohicans. Robin Hood. Tom Sawyer. Huckleberry Finn.

    I remember Grandma reading Kidnapped to me.

    • #11
  12. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    My mother read to my brothers and I beginning at a very early age. One I remember her reading was Armstrong Sperry’s Call it Courage. I was five or six at the time. I read it to my students many years later. The first book I read on my own was Roy Chapman Andrews’ All About Dinosaurs. I was seven years old at the time. Now, seventy years later, I cannot remember any time in my life when I wasn’t immersed in a book or two. There has never been a time in my life when I didn’t have a book on my nightstand, or, now-a-days, a Kindle with a queue of books either being read or waiting to be started. The love of reading, instilled at an early age, is, perhaps, the best gift you can bestow on a child. Very few of the children I worked with, over the years, were given that gift, and its absence, likely contributed to the course of their educations leading to special education classes. 

    I was able to instill a love of books in many of my students by reading full length novels to them, books like Terhune’s Lad, a Dog, and Roots by Alex Haley, and a host of other books, but there were some whose homes and early experiences in the school left them completely unable to sit and listen. It is very hard to determine if the problem was organic or created by deprivation, but no matter how I tried, some were simply unable to rise above their origins.

    • #12
  13. Locke On Member
    Locke On
    @LockeOn

    My parents had this dialed in, with their own even more efficient twist: As the eldest of five, I was bribed to read aloud to the younger ones, thereby occupying all of us at once. Starting with kid lit of the day, on into juveniles and then some. One summer we got through the entirety of The Lord of the Rings

    • #13
  14. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl
    @CowGirl

    I started reading aloud several times a day to my two-year-old just to keep him out of trouble and within my sight while I nursed his little sister. Then, when #3 was born when #2 was only 16 months old…it was an established fact: Mom is feeding the baby–time for a story to be read. 

    I also read aloud to kids when they got older. I read books as we drove the hundreds of miles to visit the grandmothers. I read books to the littler ones (we have five) in their beds and the big kids would come in and listen, too. (yes, this was pre-phone/tablet)

    Reading aloud to children has no bad side. Two of our kids figured out how to read by age four, I’m assuming from our constant reading. Before there was a Google, we’d look up things in the encyclopedia set that was in the bookshelf by the dining table, often during a meal. 

    During my 25 years as a fourth-grade teacher, I read aloud every day to my classes, and they LOVED it!!  I often read a novel by an author that had other books, and my class would be in the library hunting for those books.  

    You’re right, RushBabe49, reading aloud is a very powerful tool that is so satisfying and delightful that no one realizes how much good it does.

    • #14
  15. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Cow Girl (View Comment):

    I started reading aloud several times a day to my two-year-old just to keep him out of trouble and within my sight while I nursed his little sister. Then, when #3 was born when #2 was only 16 months old…it was an established fact: Mom is feeding the baby–time for a story to be read.

    I also read aloud to kids when they got older. I read books as we drove the hundreds of miles to visit the grandmothers. I read books to the littler ones (we have five) in their beds and the big kids would come in and listen, too. (yes, this was pre-phone/tablet)

    Reading aloud to children has no bad side. Two of our kids figured out how to read by age four, I’m assuming from our constant reading. Before there was a Google, we’d look up things in the encyclopedia set that was in the bookshelf by the dining table, often during a meal.

    During my 25 years as a fourth-grade teacher, I read aloud every day to my classes, and they LOVED it!! I often read a novel by an author that had other books, and my class would be in the library hunting for those books.

    You’re right, RushBabe49, reading aloud is a very powerful tool that is so satisfying and delightful that no one realizes how much good it does.

    In many schools, the only reading students hear is transgender story time.  

    • #15
  16. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    When you read to your kids, do you allow interruptions?  Questions in process?  Do the kids even interrupt?  I would think that reading aloud would be an excellent reward for good behavior.  Although, it might not be needed as a reward if it engenders good behavior on its own.

    • #16
  17. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl
    @CowGirl

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    When you read to your kids, do you allow interruptions? Questions in process? Do the kids even interrupt? I would think that reading aloud would be an excellent reward for good behavior. Although, it might not be needed as a reward if it engenders good behavior on its own.

    When I read aloud in school, it was just a time for listening and enjoying. Students only had to listen. We didn’t do tests, quizzes or anything on those books. It was a way to calm down after recess, and it was just for enjoyment. 

    With my own children, the reading time often drifted off into other topics. Once I was lying on the top bunk reading with a son who was probably about 8/9 years old, and out of no where he asked how I knew when I got pregnant. (the book was about baseball) I said I went to the doctor and got a blood test. “But why did you go ask the doctor? What happened that made you wonder?”  So I explained the whole menstrual cycle to him and how and why it stopped for pregnancy. We were just lying there looking up at the ceiling, one little lamp on, and it was totally comfortable and now he knew. 

    • #17
  18. Flapjack Lincoln
    Flapjack
    @Flapjack

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    When you read to your kids, do you allow interruptions? Questions in process? Do the kids even interrupt? I would think that reading aloud would be an excellent reward for good behavior. Although, it might not be needed as a reward if it engenders good behavior on its own.

    I allow (and encourage) interruptions for questions and discussions, though if it gets out of hand or off-topic, I just drive on.  Students usually get the hint after a kiddo has a question or a comment ignored and tend to get on board.  Once that happens, the questions and discussion are key to the process.  The kiddos are learning how to think about things beyond the literal level, so discussion is necessary — and testing out thoughts, ideas, etc., is a big part of that.  Students will go down wrong roads, make guesses that don’t make sense, come up with some wild theories, but it’s all toward the end of teaching them how to think and giving them lots of practice and room to make “mistakes”.  

    • #18
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