COVID-19 lockdowns and the loss of face-to-face learning widened an already existing literacy gap amongst primary school children. Reading is a strong predictor of social mobility and though children often aren’t the first demographic considered when assessing the long-term effects of COVID, this particular learning loss will have a profound impact on their future productivity and earnings.
Reading With Rhea works by providing children and teachers with a cost-free, easily accessible resource (all videos are on YouTube) that they can use to supplement in class learning. I select books which are in the public domain (to ensure that there will be no copyright issues which interrupt access), record myself reading them aloud, and edit the videos so that the words appear on the screen and are highlighted as I read them aloud. The videos allow for simultaneous visual and auditory processing of words, so even ‘ear-readers’ can benefit.
Teachers can recommend a specific book or chapter to a student so that ‘they have someone to read with’, increasing their confidence and competency in reading.
Since going live two months ago, the programme has started to come into use in schools in three London boroughs, has been launched by a local library and recommended to its partner schools and is being trialed in three hospital schools (as a resource for children who aren’t well enough to attend regular classes). Immediate goals are to onboard additional volunteers as readers and editors, to meet the demand for additional videos in the UK and now the US. Content is currently created for emerging readers, with a goal of recording videos for more confident readers in the near future. I am attempting to secure permission from a variety of publishing houses to obtain access to more current materials for recording.
The programme has been designed to be as user-friendly as possible. All videos are available on a public YouTube channel, and all content is public domain, to avoid copyright issues for the organization implementing the programme. Organizations may contact me directly if they wish for specific content to be created, otherwise the programme can simply be shared with parents / educators / students.