As the nation faces school closures and teachers, along with families, across the country work to rapidly transition day-to-day instruction to virtual learning, we know there is so much more happening at home for educators and families.
Caregivers everywhere now find themselves balancing work, meeting the needs their children, and in many cases, educating their children day to day as even beyond school closures, access to day care centers, camps, and other community programs remains out of reach. Whether you’re a parent, a teacher, or both, there can be a “no-win” feeling in this situation. Today, I want to help you remember, you are not alone. We are all in this together.
How can we get through this period of social distancing together as a school and family community? I cannot solve the issue of childcare (though I wish I could), but as a parent and former teacher myself, I can share my tips to help get through this difficult time without losing yourself in the process, and to help your children stay academically active while schools are closed.
1. Read anything, everything, and often
It unequivocally “counts!” Professor and researcher Stephen Krashen found that the single greatest factor in reading achievement, above socioeconomic status, was reading volume (Krashen 2004). The more children read, the better they will do, and the less they will fall behind in school. With libraries closed, this can be a daunting task, but there are so many wonderful stories that students can find for free. On Scholastic Learn at Home, for example, families can find curated articles, stories, and ebooks across grade levels. If all your children want to do is read rather than try online activities, remember that they are still doing something that will benefit them. And perhaps this time spent reading at home will help to create avid readers out of you and your children.
2. Read aloud together
Reading to children is wildly important, and yes, reading to older kids matters as well. During this period of self-quarantining, hundreds of beloved authors are doing read-alouds online. Search for some of your favorite authors, as Lauren Tarshis or Peter Reynolds, and see if they’re offering virtual read-alouds. If you can, watch these read-alouds as a family or as a whole class to create special shared moments together. I always love listening to authors read their stories, because it shows us how they hear their characters in their own minds, and that is something worth talking about!
3. Boost independence
Every day, let your kids do something they love. If they love to dance, have a dance party in the house. Maybe they are into comics or graphic novels—author and illustrator Dav Pilkey has a great comic story starter that kids can use to develop their own storylines, here. Don’t forget that when kids choose, kids read. Findings from the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report™ show that across demographics, the majority of kids (89%) agree their favorite books are the ones that they have picked out themselves. Or, do your children love to cook? Encourage them to help cook dinner or prepare a snack, whichever makes sense based on their age and ability.
4. Connect with others
As humans, we are social creatures by nature and connecting with other people is crucial to our well-being. Arrange for your kids to video chat with their friends and classmates. Educators, consider setting up reoccurring virtual hangouts so your students know you care and are thinking about them. Remember, our students typically spend the majority of their days with their teachers, so having this abrupt break from that routine can be hard on them. Parents, if you can, help your children set up virtual playdates or hang outs with their friends. You may also want to encourage them to check out interactive digital platforms such as Scholastic Home Base.
5. Lean on each other
To get through this, we’re all going to have to work together. Parents and teachers, try setting up a Google Hangout or Zoom meeting with your friends and colleagues to check in on each other and share lessons learned from this new reality of distance learning. And lastly, it is OK for you to take a break. Right now, many parents and teachers feel like the weight of the world is on their shoulders. I know I do. All over social media you see people questioning themselves about HOW they will get through this. You can and will.
Remember, you’ve got this. You can do this. You are enough!
Krashen, Stephen. 2004. The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research 2nd Edition. Portsmouth, NH:Heinemann.
Scholastic. 2019. “Kids & Family Reading Report: 7th Edition.” Accessed March 19, 2020. https://www.scholastic.com/readingreport/access-matters.html.
Photo provided by Suzanne Lucas