Extra literacy programs help fill learning lag left by COVID-19
Strong Start and Levelled Literacy are a boost to kids still new to in-person learning
Learning to read can pose a massive challenge for early learners, even at the best of times.
But in this academic year, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified that challenge. It’s especially true for kids in Kindergarten and early grades who are still getting used to in-person learning after so much time spent online learning at home.
At Lord Nelson Public School in East London, staff and students are benefiting from two programs that help primary students who need a bit of extra reading help outside of their regular classroom.
Noel Brooks is a literacy support teacher for students in the early grades.
“It’s no surprise that kids have missed out on a lot of school the last few years,” he said. “Especially our younger students, a great proportion of their life has been in lockdown and learning from home and we’re noticing gaps in their reading.”
To help fill those gaps, Lord Nelson uses two programs designed to give kids who need it some extra reading help.
Levelled Literacy Intervention (LLI) is designed for kids in Grade 2 and 3. For 30 minutes a day they leave their regular class to get some extra reading-focused instruction in smaller groups. Kids get new books in their hands every day and reading assignments to take home at night.
“The goal is to get them up to the reading level where they should be within 18 to 20 weeks,” said Brooks. “The kids love it and we’ve had some really good results.”
River is a Grade 2 student who needed a bit of extra help reading before she joined the LLI program.
“It’s been informing me about new books and I really like reading now,” she said.
Another special reading initiative at Lord Nelson is the Strong Start program. It’s similar to LLI but focused on students in senior Kindergarten and Grade 1.
It also relies on four volunteers who donate their time to read with students and sharpen their literacy skills.
Bronwyn Papasideris is the vice-principal at Lord Nelson. She said many of the volunteers come back year after year, and were badly missed during the COVID-19 closures.
“It’s wonderful to have them back in the building and we’re grateful to them for the time they spend with our students,” she said. “The students have a real bond with our volunteers. We couldn’t run the program without them.”
Like Brooks, Papasideris said some educators are playing catch-up with kids who struggled with at-home learning. Some students in the reading group are from homes where English isn’t spoken, which can add to the challenge of learning to read.
“This is the first May our students have been back to in-person learning in two years,” said Papasideris. “So this is the longest stretch they’ve had with in-person learning and it’s done wonderful things for their reading development and their emotional development.”
Grade 2 student Brycen Emery entered the Strong Start program in Grade 1 and says it’s made him a book lover.
“I like Iron Man and Spider Man books,” he said.