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How To Help: Volunteers Can Aid Students' Recovery From Pandemic Learning Loss

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Read Charlotte
Volunteers from the Black Child Development Institute hand out reading material and Reading Checkup information to families.

When COVID-19 forced schools to close almost a year ago, dozens of Mecklenburg County community groups came together to figure out how to help.

Now, with students returning to classrooms, they're still working together. Munro Richardson of Read Charlotte, a group that supports early literacy, said today's environment poses new challenges and opportunities.

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Munro Richardson, executive director of Read Charlotte

Groups that normally offer summer learning programs are still trying to figure out whether in-person programs will be allowed, whether Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will host programs at schools and how private groups' efforts will mesh with the prospect of a state-mandated summer school program. Richardson said they'll need to get details locked in this month.

Meanwhile, other groups are recruiting tutors to provide long-term support for students who have fallen behind. Richardson said the forced switch to online tutoring has actually made it easier to match volunteers with kids in need.

Moving forward, he said, "I would expect that one of the questions we'll have in front of us is how do we maintain that opportunity that virtual has offered us while also recognizing the value and effectiveness of in-person tutoring?"

Groups that provide training for tutors in Mecklenburg County include:

  • Read Charlotte sponsors a HELPS program that trains tutors to build elementary students' reading fluency. Details and links to other tutoring programs: ReadCharlotte.org.
  • Augustine Literacy Project trains tutors to help elementary students build reading, spelling and writing skills: ALPCharlotte.org or 704-749-6162.
  • Heart Math trains tutors to help elementary students with fundamental math skills. Executive Director Emily Gaffney says the group hopes to add 1,000 trained tutors for the coming school year. HeartTutoring.org.
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Literacy kits are designed to help parents support their children's reading progress.

Richardson said Read Charlotte is also working with community groups such as the Black Child Development Institute, Charlotte Bilingual Preschool and Caterpillar Ministries to get books and literacy supplies to families. They also offer ReadingCheckup.org, a website that provides literacy activities tailored to the skills and needs of students up to third grade.

Classroom Central serves as a central point for getting donated supplies to community groups and schools: ClassroomCentral.org or 704-377-1740.

Even as in-person classes return, many students remain in remote learning — and educators say online lessons are likely to play an ongoing role in post-pandemic instruction. Eliminate the Digital Divide, or E2D, is a Cornelius-based group that provides laptops and support to Charlotte-area students: E-2-D.org or 704-657-0408.

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