By 15 April 2020, more than 1.5 billion students worldwide experienced school closures in an effort to slow the spread of a novel coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), during the worldwide coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. These interruptions in formal in-person educational experiences caused adverse consequences on school-age children’s academic outcomes. Using a pre-existing database, we calculated changes in children’s reading ability without formal education (i.e., the summer months). The resultant models predicted that the rate of reading ability gain in kindergarten children during COVID-19 school closures without formal in-person education will decrease 66% (2.46 vs. 7.17 points/100 days), compared to the business-as-usual scenario, resulting in a 31% less reading ability gain from 1 January 2020 to 1 September 2020. Additionally, the model predicted that kindergarten children who have books read to them daily would have 2.3 points less loss (42%) compared to those who do not, who are predicted to have a 5.6-point loss during the same time period. Even though reading books to children will not substitute the critical role of formal education in teaching children how to read, families, educators, and policy makers can promote this simple strategy to facilitate and maintain reading ability gain during school closures, which may be a common occurrence as nations see the public health benefits of physical distancing for the current and future pandemic outbreaks.
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