by Julie Smith, Elementary Literacy
In a pandemic, even plans that seem conservative and doable can go unexpectedly topsy-turvy; and that has been how Fall 2021 has gone. Our plan seemed simple enough — recruit a few families where the parents have low literacy for an in-person program where we coach them to help their children learn to read and observe whether it makes a viable prototype for improving literacy for both the child and adult.
That plan was made before Delta hit, and New Brunswick had been relatively untouched by Covid-19. That plan was made with the knowledge a new wave was possible, even probable, but with high vaccination rates that all seemed manageable.
As long as we keep learning, trying and moving forward we are on the right track, even if we can never see the track before we get there.
Manageable is not really a word that people would use in hindsight for this fall. A school-based Covid-19 wave started almost immediately in September. It was then followed by community circuit breakers meant to stop the Delta wave. Next came a school strike. Finally, we all got a lesson in the Greek alphabet as Omicron entered our lexicon.
Put simply, not only has in-person become more complicated, families have seen their lives turned upside down, as it is never clear what the next day brings. It isn’t really a time where they have extra to give.
If there is one thing we have become experts at in the past two years, it is adapting. We focused on learnings beyond the in-person component of the exercise. We undertook extensive academic research, consulted with adult literacy groups and designed assessments and adapted the program for when we can work with families in person. We have also adapted a program that requires less in-person where we will launch a family literacy day campaign to have parents listen to audiobooks with their children — a task, we know from brain research, which rewires the brain into a reader.
Things happen in Covid, just normally not on the predetermined plan. Though honestly, is that really that different than life before? As long as we keep learning, trying and moving forward we are on the right track, even if we can never see the track before we get there.
Julie Smith is the Executive Director for Elementary Literacy New Brunswick, a collaborative non-profit that uses proven programming and cutting-edge approaches to close the literacy gap.
Image: jplenio @ pixabay.com