The COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close their doors and find alternative ways to function. After a year of online learning, many students are experiencing learning loss. Linda Hall, the literacy coordinator for the School-Aged Childcare Program (SACC), is combining her love for the arts and reading to help combat the learning loss her students experienced this past year.
Before working at Girls Inc., Hall taught dance, music, and drama for 30 years. “My background in education is using creativity as a platform for learning,” she says. “Kids, when they come to Girls Inc., don’t want to feel like they are in school; they want to be active, [so] that aspect of what I do works well for presenting our literacy program.”
After being closed for three months, Girls Inc. opened its doors for some girls in the SACC program in June of last year. However, due to CDC regulations and other COVID protocols, the building operated differently. We had to limit our attendance and how the girls could move around. “The first two weeks when they came in after being home, everyone was shocked,” Hall said. “To have the girls limited to one room with two staff members, only allowing them to leave for the bathroom or outside time, everything felt foreign. The structure was not what Girls Inc. was.” Girls Inc.’s opening was a blessing for so many parents, and after two weeks, everyone adjusted to the new rules. “Kids are resilient,” she said. “The cool part is they got out of their houses, got to see friends, they had the Girls Inc. staff supporting them, especially with their schoolwork. Things got happy after the first two weeks.”
With the girls back in the building, the literacy program resumed twice a week. Hall has been working on more programs and incentives to ensure her girls’ literacy skills are not falling behind. During the school year, she ran a virtual reading volunteer program on Zoom where girls were paired with different volunteers to read to each other. “I wanted the girls to have a tactile feeling of having the book in their hands,” she said. “I wanted them to see the whole face of the volunteer and not read on the computer screen as they have been. I wanted them to have an interactive experience with the volunteers. The girls are filled with joy and can’t wait for the next week.” She said. “We created a lot of reading incentive programs,” she said. “Every month, we had a theme, and there were prizes every week to ensure the girls were reading during the pandemic.” This summer is crucial to help further address learning loss, and Hall is getting creative to tackle this issue. “I am very much looking forward to the summer,” Hall said. “I feel like by then; we will be able to make up for some of the learning loss. For some children, it’s been profoundly challenging to learn from a computer screen.
This summer will be a valuable time to motivate the girls even more, and we want to give them every opportunity to help make up for what they have lost.”