More Evidence Lockdowns Crippled Reading Abilities Among Children

A new study suggests that prolonged lockdowns has disrupted children's reading abilities at a much larger rate.

By Erika Hanson | Published

New Federal Data Shows How Far Reading And Math Scores Fell During The Pandemic

children reading

The United States has long been hindered by declining education rates globally. Mix in a failing education system with a life-changing pandemic, and the outlook on the nation’s education foundation looks as dire as ever. While it’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic was detrimental to the level of education current students attained, a newly published Yale study shows alarming evidence suggesting ongoing lockdowns crippled children’s reading abilities.

Published in the February 2022 issue of the Journal of Pediatric Neuropsychology, researchers concluded that prolonged school disruptions brought on by lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a significant loss in children’s reading abilities. The study found the startling finding to be particularly true for the weakest readers, which includes children found to be dyslexic. For insight, such readers make up about 20 percent of the nation’s population.

The study followed children from a New Haven charter school. Accounting for children reading at grade levels one through four, the study lasted three summers. Culminating to a total of about six months of school time, the allocated time frame was similar to the timeframe at which many school districts remained closed throughout the pandemic. 

Measuring children reading skills in a group of disadvantaged students before and after the summer break, the research findings were startling. Children in every demographic group have been affected by closures, however, it is widely perceived that Black and Hispanic children, along with low-income families, and the disadvantaged suffer the most as they fall further behind benchmarks. The students fell behind the normative population with their capacity to comprehend written texts. The resulting effects ended up being three to four times greater than earlier research had suggested. 

children reading

Tying their findings into the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the survey illustrated the effects disruptions in schooling had on children’s reading abilities. Yet on a good note, the researchers also found crucial ways to reverse the negative effects of school closures. The study also indicated that disadvantaged readers who were ultimately provided with evidence-based reading intervention were able to at least maintain reading levels during a prolonged school break. Co-senior author of the study, Dr. Bennett Shaywitz, iterated that it remains crucial that lawmakers must prioritize funds for literacy advancements. Dr. Shaywitz is a Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology and Chief of Pediatric Neurology at the Yale University School of Medicine. Furthermore, Shaywitz said, “Children who received an evidence-based intervention during the school year were better able to maintain their reading scores in contrast to children in a comparison group who did not receive the intervention.”

While the effects of the unprecedented pandemic and its disruption on life will surely be felt for years if not decades to come, the nation’s policymakers are already feeling the pressure to reformat the failing education system. Other than the recent Yale study, a striking amount of studies suggest the country’s educational system is failing. One study even found that early reading skills were at a 20-year low this past fall. With all the research-backed publications confirming what most Americans already know, it is on our government to increase funding within the system to make up for the large gap in children reading literacy. Furthermore, many educators and parents around the country point to the notion that the educational system was already failing, and the pandemic only culminated in its rippling effect further.