Reading must be the "top priority" for pupils returning to school, a literacy expert has argued.
This is because organising learning for these pupils will be complex, some home learning will still be necessary, and because reinforcing lessons through reading at home is "manageable", according to Alex Quigley, the writer of Closing the Reading Gap and national content manager at the Education Endowment Foundation.
Coronavirus: 'Add TV subtitles to boost literacy'
Home learning: BBC works with schools to offer TV lessons
Speaking in an online lecture for ResearchEd, he said: "We don’t quite know but I think we can be pragmatic and think that months out of school will lead to children learning less, and they might be reading less effectively, reading less strategically, and how we might address these is a worthwhile consideration.
Coronavirus: Why schools should concentrate on reading
"When we do face the learning challenge, it might be that reading is an area that is a best bet for us to focus on, both as we have a potential blended approach of some remote learning and some school-based learning in the near future."
Speaking with Tes, Mr Quigley added that prioritising reading was particularly important given that he did not see a return to full-time education for all pupils as likely in the near future.
He said: "Put simply, reading is the master skill of school – and so doing more of it during the lockdown is likely to be beneficial, but also a pragmatic approach that can be done more easily than more complex approaches to teaching the curriculum."
This will need "more structure and support than ‘just read’ – especially for struggling readers – but it is still the most manageable way to organise home learning, whilst being meaningful too," he said.
"It is the top learning priority for me; for many children, we'll need to concurrently support their social and emotional wellbeing as they return."
Mr Quigley said reading was a skill that could be reinforced more easily through home learning when pupils went back to school than other topics, which would be difficult to monitor in a situation where "more haphazard pupil absence is likely".
"Given the complexity and pitfalls of teaching students remotely, it makes sense to concentrate on reading widely and habitually. It is unlikely many students will do this remotely without support and some structure," he said.
The Department for Education has recognised that the teaching of pupils returning from lockdown will look different to before, and has said there will be no need to teach a "broad and balanced curriculum".
Mr Quigley said: "When [more] students return, there will likely be a tricky mix of seeing them one or so times a week and expecting a lot of continued home learning. We know that any complexity added to homework will be a challenge, so reading offers a curriculum and homework solution upon students’ return, too.
"It can be more easily monitored and assessed compared to complex work like projects or extended written assignments. However, given the reading set is still likely to be challenging for students, it still will require some careful wrap-around support."