By Lily Bohlke for WVNS
American kids are returning to school an average of four to five months behind in their learning, according to a new study, and it’s worse for low-income students and students of color who on average are five to seven months behind.
Save the Children is among the nonprofits trying to help students across the country catch up. Cathryn Miller, who helps lead West Virginia’s programs, said it’s important for parents and caregivers to understand that their children have real concerns and worries – and adults shouldn’t pretend that everything’s going back to normal.
“As parents and caregivers, we shouldn’t gloss over their concerns,” she said, “but instead, we should validate them and reassure them that caring adults are working to keep them safe and cared for.”
Miller recommended making sure kids get the recommended amount of sleep every night, establish routines for doing their homework and reading at least 20 minutes a day. She said reading helps kids build their vocabularies and their imaginations.
During the COVID lockdown, Miller noted, they saw that many students lacked the tools at home to learn well there. For instance, some lived with grandparents who may not have the knowledge of, or access to, technology.
“The access to internet was a huge struggle that we saw here in West Virginia,” she said. “And even if the family has access to internet, the stability and quality of the internet often does not allow for remote access to learning resources and tools.”
Shane Garver, associate vice president for Save the Children’s rural-education programs, said extra support will be important for those who missed out on parts of their education last year.
“Things like after-school programs, additional tutoring programs and learning opportunities in the community are going to be critically important to supporting kids,” he said.
Save the Children’s West Virginia programs this past year supported nearly 30,000 kids across the state.