Literacy development has been especially difficult to foster during the pandemic. Access to libraries was dramatically curtailed, and when virtual instruction was the only form available, phonics and other technical aspects of reading were very hard to get across. With students now back in schools, masks still make it difficult to make sound-symbol connections explicit for kids. Overall, there is a desire to catch up in literacy, and parents can help.
The greatest contribution that you can provide is to fill your kids’ lives with the joys of reading. In that regard, the pandemic illuminated some remarkable innovations at our disposal. The digital revolution has dramatically expanded our access to digital print and picture books, with plenty of free options. Many public library systems allow checkout of e-books, and our friends at bookspring.org have compiled websites from around the world that offer free access to books in a multitude of languages. Some of these offerings allow read-aloud voices, text highlights and other features.
I offer two suggestions if you want to make e-book reading part of your routine. First, keep the focus on the story or text. Resist the temptation to click on the “Easter eggs,” those items that animate or speak to the reader when clicked. Keep the story front and center. Save the Easter eggs for later. Secondly, if reading on devices at bedtime, dim the screen, even to the point where you need a light in the room to see the text. You want your kids to wind down, and screens at full power may have an opposite and undesired effect.
Happy New Year from Austin PBS!
Benjamin Kramer, PhD, is the director of education for Austin PBS.