On February 8, the City of Kigali’s lockdown that was imposed for three weeks to contain the spread of the Covid-19 was eased, but as we go back to our daily lives, students are still required to study at home. As Covid-19 restrictions continue to interfere with the education calendar, we continue to home-school our little ones as they wait for when it is safe to return to school. While some are able to continue with classes through e-learning, many children who attend schools that do not have the capacity or resources to offer online courses have been adversely affected. Pacifique Mwungeri, a teacher at a private school in Kigali that was able to continue with online learning during lockdown, says that despite many schools offering lessons online, not all children are able to attend. “The attendance in my class is always around 60 per cent or sometimes less. The highest can be around 75 per cent on Zoom and Webex. In most cases, parents will complain about poor internet connection, and even the teachers struggle to keep a stable connection,” says Mwungeri. But despite governments and some schools doing their best to keep students learning during stay-at-home periods, which has been the case worldwide as Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc on education, studies show that the most affected aspects of education are reading and writing. The two skills are mainly enhanced at school and teachers, in their respective grades, know how to instruct their students—a skill most parents don’t have. While many children around the world have been able to gain ICT and computer literacy skills due to access to computers and gadgets at home, most parents have forgotten about helping their young ones read and write, maybe because they are too busy or don’t have the patience. Research done by the National Literacy Trust in the U.K shows that though generally the interest of kids to discover and read new things increased, it was mainly not education-related as children mainly looked out for adventure, comedy, fictional stories and cartoons to keep themselves entertained at home. “The conditions of lockdown meant that children have faced greater barriers to reading,” the study, says, adding, “children and young people reported that a lack of access to books (with schools and libraries closed), a lack of quiet space at home and a lack of school/peer support had negatively affected their ability to read and their motivation to read for enjoyment.” A local initiative, Mureke Dusome, a USAID- funded project in Rwanda, implemented by Save the Children Rwanda which seeks to improve literacy through reading, says parents need to allocate at least 15 minutes to help their children read. “Reading books helps children gain knowledge, broaden their thinking and relax. As a parent, make sure your child has a reading culture. A parent should dedicate at least 15 minutes daily, to support the children to read,” Mureke Dusome suggests, encouraging those who can’t afford books to borrow from school. It is also important that after reading, children are encouraged to write what they learned in exercise books, to ensure that they don’t relapse in writing. Tips to keep them busy Struggling to keep them focused? Here are some tips to help children practice their reading and writing as they continue to stay at home. Most children will not enjoy reading and writing if it is forced on them. Since most of us are not teachers, we may lack the skills, patience and know-how to help our little ones read and write at home. Chances are, parents and children will end up bored and frustrated. Help them write journals: Encourage your kids to write and keep a journal. It doesn’t have to be sophisticated, even a spare exercise book or your old diary can serve the purpose. Let them write what they can about their experience, what they learned, in their own words and can also draw some pictures here and there. Draw comic books: Allow your children to draw their own caricatures and give them explanations in words. You will be amazed by their storytelling schools. However, make sure it is not all about drawing. While drawing can hone their art skills, it shouldn’t fully replace reading and writing. Listen to audio books: Reading can be boring sometimes, especially for children whose attention span is short and can easily lose concentration. There are a lot of audio stories and books for young ones on the internet, which they can listen to and whip their desire to read. Order some children’s books: If you have the resources, you can buy or order some children’s books. Check out Rwanda Children’s Book Organisation, Bakame Editions and different libraries. Spelling challenges: While at home, it is important to constantly challenge children to read and spell words, either verbally or by writing. Put in some incentives for the winners. Spelling games will keep them focused. Reading in turns: Parents can make time to read simple stories in turns with their children. When their turn comes, give them what they can read, at their level. When your turn comes, read like a child, make it fun and comical. It works better at bed time. Read at home: While at home, get your favourite book and start reading it in their presence. It will whip their curiosity and they will get their own books and start reading. Didn’t we all pick interest in reading newspapers from our parents? Get a book and read, they will read too.