In the first blog of her new series, Boosting Early Literacy, Dr. Laura Bailet — Kaplan's Chief Academic Officer — provides educators with encouraging guidance for getting children back on the path to learning in the wake of COVID-19.
As schools start turning their full attention back to children's academic skills post-pandemic, many will find that foundational early literacy skills are far below the level needed for long-term school success. One very recent study showed that children have fallen behind in literacy, especially for grades K through 3.1 Children who were vulnerable before are likely to have been hit even harder in their learning and development, including children of color and children living in poverty.
Now is the time to create a path BACK to success for all children, with special emphasis on those with the most ground to make up. Helping every child achieve literacy success has never been easy. Now, more than ever, the problem demands a multi-pronged, multi-year, integrated plan.
Key facets to consider while planning:
- High-quality classroom environment and teacher-student interaction style
- High-quality comprehensive curricula and targeted, intensive early literacy curricula
- Universal early literacy screening and regular progress monitoring
- Professional development to ensure teachers have the knowledge and skills for these components
- Deep, sustained family engagement
- Strong summer learning programs and at-home resources
Fortunately, these critical facets are familiar to educators, and great resources already exist to help schools and teachers achieve literacy success for all students. Every effort and resource decision must be viewed through the dual lenses of trauma-informed teaching and racial equity for diverse students and families. School system leaders must articulate a clear vision, commit to a multi-year process, and provide the necessary resources. Start thinking NOW about your students, your classrooms, your community. What existing strengths can you accentuate, and what critical challenges do you need to tackle first?
Tips to get started:
- Invest in summer learning kits and children's books for pre-K — grade 3 students
- Plan intensive early literacy training for pre-K through grade 3 teachers
- Seek updated CLASS training that reflects the impact of the pandemic and more robust social justice and racial equity efforts
In subsequent posts, we will delineate specific aspects of the six principles listed above, so stay tuned!
About the Author
Laura Bailet, PhD, Chief Academic Officer, Kaplan Early Learning Company
Dr. Bailet has more than 30 years' experience in the field of early childhood. She earned her BA at Wake Forest University and her MA and PhD from Northwestern University. She is a licensed school psychologist and has expertise on a wide range of early childhood topics and learning disorders, including dyslexia and autism. The former Operational VP at Nemours Children's Health System and Assistant Professor at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, she has published numerous journal articles and book chapters and has been recognized by many award boards. For her accomplishments, Dr. Bailet was selected as the top "Change Agent" in Jacksonville, FL, in 2006 and is the recipient of Jacksonville's prestigious EVE Award for her success in creating Nemours® BrightStart!, the program to promote reading success for all children. She is a member of the Library of Congress Literacy Awards Advisory Board.
1Modaan, N. (Feb. 25, 2021). "Reading gaps widen in mid-year data, especially for K-1 students of color," K-12 Dive, Reading gaps widen in mid-year data, especially for K-1 students of color" | K-12 Dive.