Remote learning sets kids back an average of 2 months. Here’s what Macy’s and RIF are doing to help underserved students who are falling behind.

When almost all of the nation’s schoolchildren were forced to embark upon remote learning, everyone struggled to stay afloat: families, students, and teachers. Despite the heroic efforts of educators and families, remote learning presented significant challenges for students, particularly those of lower socioeconomic status.

It’s not yet clear the significant learning challenges all students faced last year and the resulting impact as many students return to in person learning this Fall. Preliminary data suggests significant learning loss – particularly among children of color.

The ability to read and write is the foundation upon which an education is built, and research shows students of color and those in high-poverty communities fell even further behind during remote learning than their peers. For example, the sudden shift to remote schooling in Spring 2020 set White students back by 1-3 months in math, while students of color lost 3-5 months of learning.

This systemic inequity that has existed in the American education system for decades has disproportionately left students of color behind, and the COVID-19 school closures multiplied this challenge, impacting a generation of already at-risk youth. Disparities in access to computers, home internet connections, and direct instruction from teachers, all have played a role in this crisis since the start of the pandemic. Even prior to the pandemic, 65% of children in the U.S. were not reading at the proficient level, and 2/3 of U.S. children living in poverty don’t have a children’s book in their home.


Macy’s is a longtime partner of Reading Is Fundamental, the nation’s largest children’s literacy nonprofit organization; this year, they’re taking action to address this overwhelming problem via back-to-school shopping. Every time you shop at Macy’s in August, round up your in-store purchase to the nearest dollar up to 99 cents or donate online to help support children’s literacy. Every $4 donated purchases one book, and one hundred percent of donations go directly to literacy programs for local children.

Photo courtesy of Macy’s

Over the past 18 years, Macy’s partnership with Reading Is Fundamental has provided more than 14 million books and thousands of supplemental reading resources to kids across the country. Your support will have a direct impact on communities across the country by funding critical literacy needs in communities that have the greatest need.

“At Robert Head Start & Early Head Start, we ordered our books from [Reading Is Fundamental] last school year and were able to distribute them to the children during a time when children really needed extra support at home while school was often closed for weeks at a time due to COVID-19. It was really wonderful to watch the children select their own book from the rich variety.

“As staff, we enjoyed seeing the children’s eyes light up as they would select the book they really wanted. It also helped us to learn about their likes and in some ways their dislikes. We were able to provide several opportunities throughout the school year in which the children were given the opportunity to select a book as we actually had enough for each child to receive three books. The grant supported by Macy’s not only helped us during a time of need when the children were spending so few days in an actual classroom, it provided the children with the beginning of their own home library,” said Brenda Laurent, the Center Manager at Regina Coeli Child Development Center in Robert, LA.

Supporting students who struggled with and fell behind due to the negative learning impacts of the pandemic will require all of us to pull together. Improved literacy not only benefits today’s children, but future generations shaping the trajectory of our country.

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