Read with Me in Times of Social Isolation during the Coronavirus outbreak

In March 2020, due to the crisis situation of the coronavirus outbreak, schools and public education centers were closed including Read with Me libraries and centers. A lot of these centers most of which cover underserved children in deprived regions, sought out alternative ways to support these children and their families through stories and read-alouds despite the ongoing social distancing.

Activities

Avay-e-Mandegar Empowerment Center, Kousha House for Children and The Supportive Education Center of MahmoudAbad are among the centers that have adopted education methods through social media. With the supervision of Read with Me experts, these centers are now carrying out the Basic Literacy Creative Education program and holding read-aloud sessions online.

The first step to be taken was to make sure if families had access to smart phones and network connection. The assessments indicated that two-thirds of families did have this option. Therefore, after contacting parents, each center created a group on a messaging app, set some basic ground rules and started remote teaching.

Since then, virtual read-aloud sessions focusing on subjects such as personal hygiene and its importance have been held in many Read with Me centers.

Children are asked to participate in follow-up activities after being taught the features of messaging apps. Exercise is encouraged every morning. Learning songs, recording and sharing them in the groups is also part of the remote activities of Read with Me centers.

Some centers have concentrated on teaching phonemes through the songs in the Learning Phonemic Awareness package. Place of articulation in the vocal tract, voicing and pronunciation tips are explained through audio or video files prepared by the tutors.

The Dictionary of Riddles has also been a wonderful source of activity in such times. Teachers pose riddles while they await the children to find their unique solutions.

With the arrival of spring and Nowruz (Persian New Year), teachers also include introductions to Persian traditions in their education material.

Some centers have also taken action by sending packages of stationary and sanitation supplies to the families of these underserved children.

Challenges

Read with Me experts and teachers are working hard to overcome the difficulties associated with reaching out to children in this pandemic. While the online program has been very well-received by many children and families, it is a challenge to encourage all children to participate.

Another unfortunate setback has been the expenses of internet for low-income families especially in times of economic downfall. To remedy this issue, some centers have tried to financially support such families while others are trying to be economical in the material they upload.

Nevertheless, the Coronavirus outbreak has proved once again how beautifully the Read with Me program has strengthened teacher-student bonds. And while Read with Me experts are planning new programs to adjust to the current circumstances, they sincerely await the day that children can go back to school.

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