A Reading Crisis - The New York Times

A reading crisis in the United States Since the start of the pandemic, Dana Goldstein, who covers education for The Times, has heard fr...


Since the start of the pandemic, Dana Goldstein, who covers education for The Times, has heard from parents worrying that their young children’s language development could have been hindered by masks in the classroom.

After the wave of Omicron variants, when some epidemiologists suggested it was time to start unmasking in schools, parental concern “climbed,” Dana said.

“But when I phoned speech therapists and phonetics experts, they had a lot of doubts about the correlation,” Dana said. “There is no rigorous data at this point that would suggest masks are the cause of the problem.”

“However, I continued on the path of speaking to speech and reading experts and heard of lots of other really big deficits,” she said.

Perhaps most concerning: About a third of children in the youngest classes have no reading benchmarks, up significantly from before the pandemic, according to a set of recent studies. In Virginia, a study found that early reading skills were at a 20-year low this fall, data the researchers called “alarming.”

Children of all demographic groups have been affected, but black and Hispanic children, as well as those from low-income families, those with disabilities and those who are not fluent in English, are lagging furthest behind.

“Reading is the building block of human knowledge,” Dana said, “and that is the primary purpose of primary education in many ways. Children who read poorly are more likely to drop out of high school, earn less money as adults, and get into trouble with the criminal justice system.

The reasons for the crisis are manifold. School closures, distance learning and limited social interactions have all played a role.

These problems are exacerbated by “the larger economic story of the Great Resignation, where about half of schools report that they have vacancies in basic education – and the largest category of causes for this is resignation , not retirements,” Dana said.

Teaching reading via distance learning was extremely difficult, even though students had access to the necessary tools, such as an internet connection (many did not). It was cumbersome for teachers, and students needed to be supervised at home by an adult who could guide them through online teaching.

There is also a common misconception that simply reading to children will teach them to read. “Reading at home is really important for sparking interest and motivation to read, but many children need much more explicit instruction to learn to read – more than parents can provide just by reading to them” , Dana said.

And that’s what was largely missing during the pandemic: explicit, practical instructions.

“There was a lot of good work going on across the country to improve reading instruction before the pandemic, so ideally the future would look like picking up on that and expanding that movement using federal stimulus dollars,” Dana said.

“But it’s very difficult because you may have a big intention of improving early literacy in your school, and you may have money, but if you can’t find college-educated workers to hire – or if you can’t find enough – it’s going to be tough,” she said.


Ukraine is still struggling with the pandemic, even as it is battered by a military conflict that has strained health care resources. Still, the country has – so far – been “remarkably” successful in maintaining some response to the virus, said Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe.

The organization said that last week Ukraine reported 731 Covid deaths, a figure that likely underestimates the true scale as most people in the country have been focused on the war and relief efforts. evacuation since Russia began its invasion last month. “Unfortunately, that number will increase as oxygen shortages continue,” Kluge said.

According to the WHO, only a third of people over 60 in Ukraine are fully vaccinated. The data. Since the start of the military invasion, the country has reported zero cases per day, as shown in the graph below. Deaths reached around 300 a day in the days before the invasion.

Catherine Smallwood, senior emergency officer at the WHO, said Covid hospitalizations in Ukraine had declined over the past two weeks. She said the drop could be attributed to people being discharged from hospital earlier or not being able to seek treatment due to the war.

“We encourage all of our colleagues in Ukraine to keep all systems in place to manage Covid-19,” she said.


The pandemic has upended the global economy, shuttered capitals and state houses, and devastated businesses. But alongside these major disruptions, smaller and more personal derailments have occurred.

A student’s semester abroad has been cancelled. A job opportunity was lost due to a pandemic hiring freeze. A remote romance that unfolded without the life force of the occasional visit.

For people who have experienced such singular missed opportunities, the sense of loss was no less devastating.

But as the Omicron variant fades and we have to think about the next phase of the pandemic – and our lives – we’d love to hear how you’re trying to reclaim those opportunities.

If you wish to participate, you can fill out the form here. We may use your response in a future newsletter.



After our region’s mask mandate was lifted, I found myself a bit lost without a mask…and inspired to write about it.

I miss my mask
the thing that fogged up my glasses
dried my mouth
dampened my joy of singing

I miss my mask
The thing that absorbed my tears
fall silently
while I watched my mother
walk slower, eat slower
sit down on your bench earlier
all because of the mask.

— Maureen Maingi, Raleigh, North Carolina

Let us know how you are coping with the pandemic. Send us a response hereand we could feature it in a future newsletter.

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Email your thoughts to briefing@nytimes.com.

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