Academic setbacks have become a big concern since the start of the pandemic, especially for elementary students who are just learning essential skills such as reading and writing.
"They’re coming back to school and they’re already in person but they’re set behind. So kids who are a certain grade level by the end of the school year haven’t been where they should be because of those academic set backs," said pedatric nurse practitioner Antonella Grana with South Florida Integrative Medicine.
It’s a topic that’s been talked about for months. Distant learning during the pandemic didn’t allow students to learn to their fullest ability. Grana said it’s a big problem she’s been seeing with her clients.
"They definitely have a difficult time sustaining attention and they’re really missing that one-on-one contact they’re getting from kids and teachers. So I've heard of plenty of kids who have been set back academically," she said.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced in April that the district intends to welcome back all students to in-person learning next fall. The district is also giving parents the option of online learning. But Carvalho recommends that in-person learning is the best thing for students.
This comes a day after Broward County Public Schools made a similar announcement.
For students who are enrolling in online learning, Grana said reading is a very important tool.
"Books can teach kids a lot about life about emotions about how to relate to other kids. So not only are they getting ahead academically being exposed to more words they’re also learning life skills and this can be about situations they’ve never been in before," she said.
For example introducing them to books that tackle different issues such as divorce, a parent’s remarriage or becoming part of a blended family.
"It’s reminding kids not to just have any negative stereotypes or judgments based upon what somebody looks like on the outside or maybe if they have different religion or beliefs than you and that families, whether it’s blended a blended family or not a family, it’s all a family just the same," said Nadine Haruni, children's book author.
Haruni aims to make coping with various life challenges easier for little ones with the help of a momma frog named Freeda.
"Freeda the Frog is on the Move, which I wrote when my kids and I moved from Manhattan to the suburbs and they were not happy campers. It’s helping kids who are changing schools whether it’s a new town or transitioning from elementary to middle school. It’s reminding them that change doesn’t have to be so scary after all," said Haruni.
Public libraries across Florida have a lot of reading options for children.
"This is for very very little kids. You can see here on the inside that there is different faces, there are babies of different cultures. This is how you can start exposing small children to people who look different than them," said Grana.
United way of Broward County is helping students stay on track with their ReadingPals mentor program. They’re looking for 300 volunteers to read to elementary school children. You can find more information on how to apply or sign up at unitedwaybroward.org/readingpals.