COLORADO SPRINGS, CO — COVID-19 threw education a curveball with canceled classes and remote learning hurdles, but experts say it may have the greatest impact on our youngest pupils, in the formative years of learning to read.
About a third of children in the youngest grades are missing reading benchmarks, up significantly from before the pandemic.
Kelly Haase, a reading coach and interventionist, explains that many kids struggle with reading because, “Our brains were designed to speak, communicate and converse with each other, not to read. Kids that really struggle with it. There’s a reason.”
We caught up with Haase at Academy School District 20's Pioneer Elementary in Colorado Springs where she helps students through a five-part process.
First, playing with sounds. Haase says there is a fun way to do it. “Parents should be in the car saying 'what does that McDonald's sign start with? Aw, that’s an M. That’s the mmmm sound.' That’s how you can easily help.”
Second, using phonics. “Letters make sounds, sounds make words," explained Haase.
Third, learn the English language rules to better understand reading and spelling.
Fourth, students learn how to put the pieces together to read. Haase suggests taking your kids to the library and helping to get their confidence up by letting them choose what they want.
Fifth, comprehension and vocabulary. “It’s not as simple as it seems,” Haase explains because this all needs to be systematically taught.
It’s clear that reading is a major focus at Pioneer Elementary. Principal Brian Casebeer says, “Our teachers have been all over good reading instruction. We know reading is the name of the game. Kids need to leave here being good readers.”
The title one school receives extra funding that goes toward helping students who struggle and those who are further ahead.
Over the past decade, Colorado’s per-pupil funding is now $3,300 below the national average.
In May, lawmakers slashed $1.3 billion from the education fund to catch up on a shortfall caused by the COVID shutdown.
Many public schools in our state are starting to spend Coronavirus relief money on intense literacy tutoring, but even 20 minutes a day of reading at home makes a huge difference.
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