student literacy

Overcoming Pandemic Learning Loss

Written by Melanie Rodriguez

You may or may not realize it, but the world is facing a global literacy crisis. Even before the pandemic, 2/3 of Canadian and American fourth graders read below grade level. Why do teachers and researchers pay special attention to the fourth grade? This is because if a child cannot read at grade level by grade four, they fall behind in all areas of learning.

The pandemic has only made the situation nationally and globally worse. It quickly and abruptly disrupted the foundation of learning for an entire generation while increasing inequalities. Children, especially vulnerable children, are experiencing severe pandemic learning loss. Without urgent literacy intervention, research shows that at-risk children are more likely to:
– Fail to thrive academically and drop out of high school;
– Struggle in the workforce and earn less income;
– Not gain the vital skills necessary to become engaged and healthy citizens.

Globally, children are facing even more severe consequences. Thanks to pandemic disruptions, 70% of children in low-middle income earning countries live in learning poverty, meaning that they cannot read basic text by the age of ten. With all countries considered, pandemic learning loss will cost children and youth an estimated $17 trillion in lifetime earnings – 14% of the world’s GDP!

Whether you’re a parent, educator, or entrepreneur interested in economic stability, literacy matters. But how do we advance literacy for all? By working together.

As Parents & Caregivers

We can help our children by practicing easy and evidence-based learning habits. For example, did you know that every growing reader should practice reading out loud for 10 minutes with a grown up at least 5 times a week? If you didn’t, you’re not alone which is why this rarely happens for kids.

Arranging time for your child to read out loud, whether it is with yourself, a family member, or an educator, can help them tackle pandemic loss and kick-start their reading journey.

As Managers & Entrepreneurs

Can businesses improve literacy and strengthen their workforce at the same time? Yes. 4x more women left the workforce during the pandemic to take care of their children. Companies who provide education support such as crisis childcare and high-dosage tutoring can better retain top talent, reduce turnover costs, and increase their productivity.

Plus! Did you know that your company donating may increase your sales? When done correctly, research consistently shows that corporate donations attract customers. For example, a survey by Mintel found that charitable giving affects nearly three-quarters of Americans’ spending decisions. Half of those surveyed also said that they would switch to a company that supports the cause they believe in. For those under the age of 41, this increases to 61%.

As Community Members

Advancing literacy for all requires collaboration across sectors. That’s why it’s so important to raise awareness of the crisis and encourage others to get involved. Donate to charities and grassroots organizations completing literacy programs, get involved with your local literacy center, and share literacy resources with your network.

Whether as individuals or as a team, every effort towards overcoming learning loss counts. Each small step we take today can truly better the future of our children tomorrow.

Melanie Rodriguez is an education advocate who has worked with over 30 nonprofits and social enterprises around the globe. Today, she leads social impact for Hoot Reading: A social enterprise connecting children with experienced teachers to practice reading and advance literacy for all.