How to raise readers and expand young minds

Experts predict 80% of children who live in poverty will lose reading skills over summer break

ORLANDO, Fla. – The pandemic is being blamed for an increase in babies and toddlers missing their talking and reading milestones. It’s not because of the isolation or the masks that covered everyone’s face, it’s because their parents have been too busy working from home to devote enough time to them.

In fact, multiple studies show toddlers are talking less because parents haven’t had time to engage them in language developing conversations.

Brown University researchers found children’s average cognitive performance is at the lowest rate it’s been in a decade and experts worry that nearly one-third of low-income elementary students will need intensive support to become proficient readers.

And this is more than just learning ABCs; this is about giving a child the best chance possible to succeed.

“We know that parents when they think about what their children need, it’s always food and clothing. And I think what we’re also doing is bringing in the reality that books are another essential need,” Anne Guerra, board president of Books Between Kids said.

“Studies show that having books at home is more important than your parents’ educational level,” Kayla Hand, executive director of Books Between Kids said.

More than 60% of low-income families do not have books at home for their children. Two out of every ten children enter kindergarten with skills three years lower than their peers. And students who can’t read proficiently by fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

What started with a few second-hand books grew into more than 310,000 books as of this year.

“I don’t care what socioeconomic group you belong to. They go to that book to escape for a few minutes, maybe for a few hours. And for children not to have that opportunity, we need to change that because sometimes just the escape of reading is just so exciting,” Guerra said.

More than 36 million adults in the U.S. don’t have basic reading skills above a third-grade level. And the children of those adults are 72% more likely to be at a low reading level.

Now that summer is here, experts predict 80% of children living in poverty will continue to lose reading skills over the break due to a lack of access of books.

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