COVID-19 Learning Loss – How Parents Can Minimize This Year’s “Summer Slide”

COVID-19 Learning Loss – How Parents Can Minimize This Year’s “Summer Slide”

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As this school year wraps up, I’m starting to hear this message from worried parents: “I’m concerned about COVID-19 learning loss. What can I do to make sure my child isn’t ‘behind’ when schools starts back up in the fall?”

No matter how smoothly distance learning unfolded for your family and your school, you may find that your child’s reading, writing or math skills are not as solid as you’d like them to be.

There are many possible reasons for this COVID-19 learning loss.

Your school district may not have had the resources to shift to distance learning quickly. Your child’s teacher may have run into challenges as they learned how to deliver instruction remotely. You might have a busy household full of energy that made it tough for your child to concentrate and participate in online instruction. Maybe your child isn’t comfortable with online instruction, and wasn’t fully engaged. Or maybe, just maybe you and/or your child burned out on it all and couldn’t put forth as much effort as you wanted to. And that is just fine.

The unexpected pivot to distance learning was not ideal for many families, but it doesn’t have to result in your child falling permanently behind.

Once your family has had a chance to take a deep breath and decompress (and please, please do!) there are plenty of steps you can take this summer to offset COVID-19 learning loss.

Take it “Offline”

My first recommendation is to balance tech-related activities with “offline” activities. I’m thankful that technology made it possible for children around the world to continue learning this spring, but I also know that most kids are in need of more hands-on, in-person learning.

Think math counters and flash cards, journal writing with fun markers or fancy gel pens, print books, and even (gasp!) old-fashioned workbooks.

Keep Reading

To improve or maintain reading skills, the best thing you can offer your children this summer is plenty of time spent reading and listening to books that they love.

Establish (or re-establish!) a nightly read aloud ritual. For younger kids, read aloud classic picture books every day. If you have older kids, choose a classic, beloved book and enjoy it as a family. Weave reading throughout your day, making it a regular part of your family life this summer.

Remember to include audiobooks in your bag of tricks, too. They’re fun alternative to reading aloud, and a great way to make the most of quiet time at home. Your family can enjoy just listening, or you can have your child follow along in the book at the same time.

Make sure your children spend time reading great books on their own, too. I am always shocked at quickly reading skills become rusty.

Here’s a great strategy for making sure kids are reading books that are “just right” in terms of difficulty level.

Open a book the two of you are considering, and have your child start reading a page that is full of text. (Not the first page, as the print often begins halfway down the page, which can skew the results of this quick assessment.)

Each time your child gets stuck on a word have them hold up one finger. If five fingers are raised before the end of the page, the book is too hard for independent reading.  If your child has their heart set on reading it, set it aside in the “read aloud” pile. If fewer than five fingers are raised, the book is probably appropriate for your child to read on their own.

Keep a Journal

Make writing fun this summer! Pick a journal you know will appeal highly to your child, such as these fun themed ones.. A great option is a blank comic book. Just as graphic novels often appeal to reluctant readers, blank comic books can win over reluctant writers. Let them start off with illustrations and short dialogue, then as time goes on, gently encourage more writing and fewer illustrations.

For younger children, have them draw a picture of a favorite person or activity, and then write a few sentences. It’s fine to help out by letting them dictate words they are unsure how to spell. Or, tell them to “say it slowly, and write down the sounds you hear.” Then, scoot in with your pencil to fill in any missing letters. This is a powerful way to support spelling development without discouraging young writers.

In addition to a cool journal, be sure to provide writing utensils that will help your child be motivated and engaged. Consider colored pencils, mechanical pencils, glitter pens, fancy markers, or highlighters. Stickers are also a great way to increase children’s motivation to illustrate or decorate their journal entries.

Back to Basics in Math

While I do believe that Common Core math strategies teach kids to be better critical thinkers, I don’t think that parents should stress out about teaching Common Core at home during the summer.

If you are worried about your child’s math skills, spend time this summer reinforcing the basics. Common Core math curriculum often assumes that children have deep mastery of math computation skills. Kids without this well-developed foundation often struggle with the higher level thinking skills Common Core requires. It’s not that they don’t understand the concept being taught, it’s that they can’t properly explore the concept because their computation skills are not fluent and automatic.

So work on developing your child’s automaticity with math basic facts. Use flash cards, and start with small sets of facts that your child knows. Gradually add in the ones that they don’t know. Practice for short periods of time (5 minutes or less) twice a day if possible.

For addition and subtraction facts that your child struggles with, provide counters and let them work out the answer themselves. For multiplication and division facts that have them stumped, have them draw an array to find the answer.

Send your child back to school with strong computational skills, and let the teachers help them apply those skills to Common Core.


Workbooks get such a bad rap, don’t they? None of us, teachers or parents, want kids’ instructional activities to consist solely of workbooks and seatwork. But there’s a time and a place for everything, and this summer of 2020 might well be the time and place for well-designed summer workbooks to provide a safety net for parents.

If I had elementary-aged children at home, I would definitely have them spend a few minutes a day working out of a summer workbook. And as a teacher, I would be thrilled if my students returned in the fall having done the same.

Here are a few summer workbook series that I like. Click through to choose the one that seems best for your family.

Keep it Short & Sweet

No matter what academic learning activities you provide for your child this summer, don’t overdo it.  COVID-19 learning loss can be offset by as little as 45-60 minutes per day, broken up into smaller periods of time throughout the day. Stay flexible and relaxed, focusing on staying consistent over time.

And for goodness sake, as much as you safely can, make sure your kids get outside to play! If there ever was, this is the summer for bikes and scooters, sidewalk chalk and bubbles, jump ropes and sprinklers.

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How to Teach High Frequency Words (and which ones to teach)

How to Teach High Frequency Words (and which ones to teach)

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, A Family of Readers earns a small commission.

An important part of learning to read is memorizing high frequency words.

High frequency words are words that make up the majority of printed material, such as news articles, novels, textbooks, and children’s books.

To be fluent readers, children need to be able to read high frequency words quickly and automatically.

High frequency words are not necessarily “rule breakers” or words that can’t be sounded out. There are many high frequency words that are easy to sound out! High frequency words are the words that occur most frequently in printed material.

You’ll find various lists of high frequency words. The most common lists are the Dolch words and the Fry 1000 Instant Word List. In addition, most reading programs provide their own lists.

The Fry 1000 Instant Word List

In 1996, Dr. Edward Fry published his list of the 1000 most commonly used words in English, ranked by order of frequency.

The first 25 words make up 30% of printed material.

The first 100 words make up 50% of printed material.

The first 300 words make up 65% of printed material.

Looking at these numbers, it’s easy to see why children need to learn high frequency words!

The Fry 1000 Instant Word List is generally divided into smaller lists of 100 words. As a general guide, the first 100 words should be mastered during first grade. (Note – in most states, Kindergarten students are now expected to master anywhere from 20 to 50 of the first 100 words. This wasn’t the case when Fry published his list in 1996.)

The second 100 words should be mastered during second grade, and the third 100 words during third grade. The remaining 700 words should be learned by the end of elementary school.


It’s important to note that the Fry 1000 Instant Words are in order of frequency, not difficulty. There are tricky words early in the list, and there are easy words later in the list.

For most children, it’s best to learn the words in small batches of five to ten. For a struggling reader, it’s appropriate to work on learning the words in groups of three. Our Fry First 300 Words downloadable flash cards and online games are in organized in groups of ten.

How to Teach High Frequency Words

A powerful way to teach high frequency words is through multi-sensory learning, with practice and reinforcement through games. Multi-sensory learning includes visual (seeing), auditory (hearing), kinesthetic (doing) and tactile (feeling) activities.

Research tells us that if a child learns while using more than one sense, they are much more likely to retain the information.

If you’ve been wanting to help your child master high frequency words, A Family of Readers can help you get started today!

Visit our Resource Library to download your free Fry First 300 Words flash cards. Print out appropriate cards for your child’s grade level and explore the easy multi-sensory teaching and learning activities described below.

Multi-Sensory Activities for Learning High Frequency Words

Activity #1 Tap and Spell

Place the flash card flat on the table. Read the word. With your index finger, tap under each letter while saying the name of that letter. Read the whole word while sliding under it with your index and middle fingers. Repeat.

Activity #2 Trace and Spell

Place the flash card flat on the table. Trace each letter with a capped pen or the end of an unsharpened pencil, while saying the name of the letter. Read the whole word as you slide under it with your index finger and middle finger. Repeat.

Activity #3 Table Writing

Keep the card where you can see it. Use your index finger and middle finger to form each letter on the table. Say the name of each letter as you form it. Read the whole word while sliding under it with your index and middle fingers. Repeat.

Activity #4 Arm Tapping

Hold a flash card in your left hand. With your right index finger and middle finger, tap your left shoulder and read the word. Use the index and middle finger of your right hand to tap your left arm each time you say a letter, tapping and spelling your way down your arm to your wrist.

When you’ve finished tapping the letters down your arm, return to your shoulder. Slide your index and middle fingers down your left arm as you read the word from the flash card. Repeat.

Activity #5 Air Writing

Hold the flash card in front of you. Read the word. Use your index and middle fingers to trace each letter in the air as you say its name. Then “underline” the word with your index and middle fingers while you read the word again. Repeat.

Bonus Activity

Clip a piece of paper to a piece of #7 Mesh Plastic Canvas. Using a crayon, copy the word on to the paper, saying each letter as you write it. The mesh plastic canvas and the crayon will create raised letters. Trace each raised letter while saying its name. Read the word while sliding under it with your index and middle fingers.

These multi-sensory activities are a great way for your child to master High Frequency words and become a better reader. Help your child spend just a few minutes a day practicing these activities with a small group of words at a time. You’ll be amazed at how quickly they learn!

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11 Powerful Reasons to Make Audiobooks Part of Your Family Life

11 Powerful Reasons to Make Audiobooks Part of Your Family Life

If you are trying to create a literacy-rich home environment and raise kids who are passionate readers, be sure to add listening to audiobooks to your list of family activities.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, A Family of Readers earns a small commission.

Here are eleven compelling reasons to make audiobooks a regular part of your family life – or to give the gift of audiobooks to the families on your holiday gift list.

1.  Listening to audiobooks promotes a literacy-rich home environment. Kids who grow up in a literacy-rich home environment tend to learn to read easily, and develop a lifelong passion for books and reading.

2.  It fosters your family’s identity as readers and book lovers. Prioritizing time to listen to audiobooks together sends the message loud and clear, “We are a family that loves stories and books.”

3.  Enjoying audiobooks together creates shared memories you’ll treasure forever. My husband and young adult children still reminisce about listening to Holes by Louis Sachar on a road trip to Sedona, Arizona.

4.  Listening to audiobooks can involve all family members, no matter their age level. You’ll be amazed at how many children’s chapter books and novels are enjoyable for adults, too. Did you know that kids’ listening comprehension levels are typically two years above their reading comprehension levels? Younger children who may not be ready to fully understand a story can sit nearby and enjoy quiet activities or a snack while listening and being a part of family time. You can choose a wide variety of books without worrying about leaving anyone out.

5.  Listening to audiobooks together leads to terrific family discussions. Listen to a chapter while cooking dinner, and then discuss it together as you eat dinner. While listening in the car, pause after each chapter to let everyone share their thoughts and reactions to the story.

6.  Relaxing by listening to an audiobook reduces stress and calms the mind and spirit. When life gets crazy and the energy level in your home is too rambunctious, load up a favorite audiobook and feel the chaos subside.

7.  Listening to audiobooks improves language development and vocabulary in children of all ages, and improves speech articulation in younger kids. Audiobooks are a fantastic way to expose your children to the rich vocabulary found in high quality literature. Skilled voice actors model crisp, clear pronunciation and speech articulation.

8.  Audiobooks help kids improve their listening and visualizing skills, which are crucial for good comprehension. Children who listen to audiobooks develop the ability to listen carefully and visualize the events in the story.

9.  Listening to audiobooks is a powerful, effective way to support struggling or reluctant readers. Listening while following along on a device or in a book improves decoding, fluency and comprehension.  It also builds confidence and motivation by giving kids access to the same popular books their peers are reading.

10.  It improves fluency in readers of all ages, by modeling reading rate, phrasing, tone and expression. Kids start to model their own oral reading after the expert readers and voice actors who narrate audiobooks.

11.  Audiobooks offer an attractive, persuasive alternative to screen time. Instead of breaking out the tablets in the car, load up an audiobook. Experiment to find other times to substitute an audiobook for screen time. Once your kids have become accustomed to listening, you might be surprised at how willing they are to accept this alternative!


Listening to audiobooks is a powerful strategy for developing literacy in your children.


Fortunately, audiobooks are easy to find these days, and the cost doesn’t have to be prohibitive.

My favorite way to get audiobooks for free is through Overdrive, a network of libraries and schools. With a card from a participating library, you can check out any eBook or audiobook for as long as 21 days. Unlike many sites that feature free audiobooks, Overdrive provides access to just about any title available. This is important because you will want access to quality children’s literature.

The easiest way to purchase audiobooks is through Audible by Amazon. You purchase credits by the month or in bulk, and then use them to buy audiobooks. (Each audiobook costs one credit.) Credits start at $14.95 per month for one credit and range up to $229 for 24 credits.

Credits do roll over from month to month, but not indefinitely. Be sure to check the current terms of service. The selection of available titles is vast and up-to-date, and Audible offers a 30% discount on any additional titles you purchase.

To start your family’s free 1 month Audible trial, click here.

Looking for a thoughtful, meaningful gift for a birthday or holiday? Audiobooks are a fantastic gift option for anyone from families to individuals of any age. To give the benefits of audiobooks through Audible by Amazon, click here.

I hope you’ll make audiobooks a part of your family culture today. The benefits are priceless, and I promise you won’t regret it!


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The Ultimate Quick and Easy List of Dyslexia Resources

The Ultimate Quick and Easy List of Dyslexia Resources

Just a no-nonsense list of resources to help you learn more about dyslexia and how to help your dyslexic child learn to read.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, A Family of Readers earns a small commission.


Websites to Learn More About Dyslexia

The International Dyslexia Association

Dyslexia Help at The University of Michigan


The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity

The Reading Well

Bright Solutions for Dyslexia

The Dyslexic Advantage

The Dyslexia Training Institute

Homeschooling With Dyslexia


Books About Dyslexia

Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz

The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning by Ben Foss

Proust and the Squid: The Story and the Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf

The Dyslexia Checklist by Sandra F. Rief

The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain by Brock L. Eide


What is the Orton-Gillingham Approach?

The Reading Well

Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators

Decoding Dyslexia OH


Orton-Gillingham Reading Programs and Teaching Materials for Dyslexia

All About Learning Press

Pride Reading Program

Barton Reading & Spelling System

Logic of English

Reading Horizons


Homeschooling with Dyslexia 


dyslexia resources pin 1dyslexia resources pin 2pin 3


Does My Child Have Dyslexia?

Does My Child Have Dyslexia?

If you have a struggling reader, you may have asked yourself this worrisome question – “Does My Child Have Dyslexia?” Dyslexia is an inherited neurological condition that makes it difficult to read, write and spell, despite having average intelligence overall.

It takes a licensed educational psychologist or a neurologist to formally diagnose dyslexia. However, and fortunately, parents and teachers can certainly be on the lookout for valuable warning signs of dyslexia in children. If your child demonstrates three or more of the following behaviors, consider more thoroughly researching dyslexia and what can be done to treat it.

The following information regarding dyslexia warning signs is excerpted from Bright Solutions, a fantastic dyslexia resource for families and teachers.

unhappy preschooler looking at a bookSigns of Dyslexia in Preschoolers

  • delayed speech
  • mixing up the sounds and syllables in long words
  • chronic ear infections
  • stuttering
  • constant confusion of left versus right
  • late establishing a dominant hand
  • difficulty learning to tie shoes
  • trouble memorizing their address, phone number, or the alphabet
  • can’t create words that rhyme
  • a close relative with dyslexia

Dyslexia Warning Signs in Elementary Schoolelementary school child holding face

  • dysgraphia (slow, non-automatic handwriting that is difficult to read)
  • letter or number reversals continuing past the end of first grade
  • extreme difficulty learning cursive
  • slow, choppy, inaccurate reading
  • guesses based on shape or context
  • guesses based on shape or context
  • skips or misreads prepositions (at, to, of)
  • ignores suffixes
  • can’t sound out unknown words
  • very poor spelling
  • often can’t remember sight words (they, were, does) or homonyms (their, they’re and there)
  • difficulty telling time with a clock with hands
  • trouble with math
  • difficulty memorizing multiplication tables
  • trouble memorizing a sequence of steps
  • confusion about directionality
  • when speaking, has difficulty finding the correct word
  • extremely messy bedroom, backpack and desk
  • dreads going to school

Dyslexia Warning Signs in High School

Consider all of the above symptoms plus:unhappy teenager looking at book

  • limited vocabulary
  • extremely poor written expression
  • large discrepancy between verbal skills and written compositions
  • unable to master a foreign language
  • difficulty reading printed music
  • poor grades in many classes
  • may drop out of high school

Signs of Dyslexia in Adults

Education history similar to above, plus:

  • slow readeradults with dyslexia
  • may have to read a page two or three times to understand it
  • very poor speller
  • difficulty putting thoughts onto paper
  • dreads writing memos or letters
  • still has difficulty with right versus left
  • often gets lost, even in a familiar city
  • sometimes confuses b and d, especially when tired or sick

If your child shows three or more of the warning signs above, consider digging in and doing some research. Fortunately, plenty of information about dyslexia and how to treat it is readily available.

To learn more about dyslexia in general, visit these links:

To learn more about how to help your child with dyslexia learn to read, visit this link:


Homeschooling with Dyslexia

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Sad girl holding head in hands, wondering if she has dyslexiaUpset boy with head in hands wondering if he has dyslexia