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A Family Guide to Reading Resources and Strategies to Minimize the COVID Slide

Extended school closures will significantly curtail learning gains in reading. Here are ways to mitigate the loss.
A mom and young son read a book on the floor of his bedroom
Published: May 29, 2020

The novel coronavirus has created an unprecedented interruption to school-based learning experiences provided by professional educators. The timing and extent of these closings intensifies summer learning loss, which is referred to as the summer slide. Recent research indicates that the extended school closures will significantly curtail learning gains in reading by as much as 30 percent and that losses vary across grade levels, a phenomenon referred to as the COVID slide.

Additionally, summer learning loss disproportionately affects low-income students who are already vulnerable to falling behind their classmates. This is partially explained by access to resources. Over the summer, students from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to have less access to educational resources that could facilitate learning as compared with their advantaged peers. The purpose of this guide is to provide information on resources and strategies to keep students engaged in reading activities to help minimize the effects of the COVID slide.


Read with your children daily. During this crisis, setting aside time to read with your children can help them feel protected and cope with stress1. In addition to meeting emotional needs, there are educational benefits of reading together. For very young children, reading aloud stimulates language development and helps develop language skills that are critical to becoming successful readers. For preschoolers, reading to them helps build important skills, like recognizing letters and understanding that printed type represents spoken words. For young readers, this activity reinforces language skills and also helps build vocabulary and fluency—important skills in decoding and comprehension. Older children2 also benefit from reading time; it helps them build their vocabulary, and it improves comprehension and listening skills, offering you and your children opportunities to discuss conflicts and difficult issues within a story.

Keep in contact with teachers. It is important that your child is reading books that are sufficiently challenging and include both literary and informational texts that are appropriate for your child’s age and abilities. Your child’s teachers are the best resources for recommending appropriate reading materials. Be prepared to ask them about books and reading resources for the summer as well as activities and strategies that support reading acquisition and comprehension.

Scaffold your child’s reading. The purpose of reading is to connect ideas on a page to what we know. A robust vocabulary3 and sufficient background knowledge help students make these important connections; this is especially true for English language learners. Prior to reading new material, you can help your child make connections by highlighting new vocabulary words and building background knowledge4 about the topic. For example, if your child is reading a story that takes place in a different country, examine a map together and locate the country, talk about the country’s culture, watch a program or movie related to the country, and identify and explain new vocabulary words that they may encounter.

Use interactive activities to­­ engage children in reading. Interactive reading strategies5 can help strengthen reading skills and comprehension across a wide range of age groups and reading abilities. For those learning to read, engage them by asking questions about the pictures, the story, and what they think will happen next. Read books that have repeated phrases that you can “read together.” Shared reading6 helps novice readers successfully participate in the activity and make connections between oral and printed language. Reader’s theater7 is a good strategy for children in elementary grades to help build fluency and comprehension. It is a great activity to engage the family in literacy activities; you can use a storybook that you already have or locate scriptsLearning to read does not end when children enter adolescence. Motivating adolescent readers9 can be challenging; encourage them to select a book to read with their peers and establish a virtual book club. Writing is an important component in understanding the conventions of text and, therefore, aids in reading comprehension. For children who are already writing, ask them to write about what they are reading; reinforce reading comprehension skills in younger children by asking them to retell the story or draw a picture about the story.

Keep children reading throughout the summer. Summer reading10 can help minimize or prevent the summer slide. Many students rely on their classrooms, school libraries, and public libraries to access reading materials. Keep in touch with your child’s teacher and school librarian to find out if reading materials can be loaned out during the summer. Although most public libraries have closed their doors as a result of the pandemic, many continue to serve their communities in innovative ways. Check with your local library about access to reading materials, summer reading programs, virtual programs, and mobile book delivery programs. Many communities have a Little Free Library book exchange, which can easily be found using this locator map11. Please make sure to follow the COVID-19 best practices12 for safe handling when picking up or exchanging books.


1 “Tips for Parents on How Books Help Children Cope with Stress.” (March 2020). Reach Out & Read.

2 “Reading Aloud to Middle School Students.” (May 2019). Edutopia. 

3 “9 Tips to Build Your Child’s Vocabulary at Home.” (February 2016). Iowa Reading Research Center. 

4 “Building Background Knowledge.” Reading Rockets. 

5 “25 Activities for Reading and Writing Fun.” Reading Rockets. 

6 “Shared Reading.” Reading Rockets. 

7 “Reader’s Theater: Giving Students a Reason to Read Aloud.” Reading Rockets. 

8 “Readers Theater: Alphabetical Listing of Theater Scripts with Number of Parts.” Dr. Chase Young.

9 “Adlit 101: Motivation.” All About Adolescent Literacy. 

10 “Parent Tips: Summer Reading.” ¡Colorίn Colorado!

11 “Little Free Library World Map.” Little Free Library.

12 “Best Practices at Little Free Libraries During the Coronavirus Outbreak.” Little Free Library.

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