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The Stolen Year
Cover of The Stolen Year
The Stolen Year
How COVID Changed Children's Lives, and Where We Go Now
An NPR education reporter shows how the last true social safety net— the public school system—was decimated by the pandemic, and how years of short-sighted political decisions have failed to put our children first.
School has long meant much more than an education in America. 30 million children depend on free school meals. Schools are, statistically, the safest physical places for children to be. They are the best chance many children have at finding basics like eye exams, safe housing, mental health counseling, or simply a caring adult. Flawed, inequitable, underfunded, and segregated, they remain the most important engine of social mobility and the crucible of our democracy.
The cost of closing our schools for so long during COVID, made with good intentions, has not yet been fully reckoned with.
In The Stolen Year, NPR education reporter Anya Kamenetz shows that the roots of our crisis run far deeper than COVID. She follows families across the country as they lived through the pandemic. But she also dives deep into the political history that brought us to this point: Why we have no childcare system to speak of, why subsidies for families were cut to the bone, how children became the group most likely to live in poverty, how we overpolice and separate families of color, and how we are content to let the unpaid and underpaid labor of women, especially women of color and immigrants, stand in for a void of public and collective concern for children.
Kamenetz makes the case that 2020 wasn't a lost year—it was taken from our children, by years of neglect and bad faith. We have failed to put them first.
The American Rescue Plan offers new tax benefits for families and new funding for schools. But if progress stops there, and we revert to cutting funding and laying off school staff, another crisis will surely come. The Stolen Year is a passionately argued and emotional story, but also a demand for recompense.
An NPR education reporter shows how the last true social safety net— the public school system—was decimated by the pandemic, and how years of short-sighted political decisions have failed to put our children first.
School has long meant much more than an education in America. 30 million children depend on free school meals. Schools are, statistically, the safest physical places for children to be. They are the best chance many children have at finding basics like eye exams, safe housing, mental health counseling, or simply a caring adult. Flawed, inequitable, underfunded, and segregated, they remain the most important engine of social mobility and the crucible of our democracy.
The cost of closing our schools for so long during COVID, made with good intentions, has not yet been fully reckoned with.
In The Stolen Year, NPR education reporter Anya Kamenetz shows that the roots of our crisis run far deeper than COVID. She follows families across the country as they lived through the pandemic. But she also dives deep into the political history that brought us to this point: Why we have no childcare system to speak of, why subsidies for families were cut to the bone, how children became the group most likely to live in poverty, how we overpolice and separate families of color, and how we are content to let the unpaid and underpaid labor of women, especially women of color and immigrants, stand in for a void of public and collective concern for children.
Kamenetz makes the case that 2020 wasn't a lost year—it was taken from our children, by years of neglect and bad faith. We have failed to put them first.
The American Rescue Plan offers new tax benefits for families and new funding for schools. But if progress stops there, and we revert to cutting funding and laying off school staff, another crisis will surely come. The Stolen Year is a passionately argued and emotional story, but also a demand for recompense.
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About the Author-
  • Anya Kamenetz is the lead digital education correspondent for NPR. Previously she worked as a staff writer for Fast Company magazine. She's contributed to the New York Times, Washington Post, New York Magazine, Slate, and O, the Oprah Magazine, and has won multiple awards for her reporting on education, technology, and innovation. She is the author of four books: Generation Debt, DIY U, The Test, and The Art of Screen Time. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 6, 2022
    Journalist Kamenetz (Generation Debt) delivers a compassionate study of how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted schoolchildren and their families. Drawing on interviews with children and parents across the U.S. and her own experiences as the mother of two young daughters, Kamenetz documents “high levels of chronic absence and disengagement from school” following the shift to remote learning in 2020, and reports that former secretary of education Betsy DeVos “diverted a disproportionate share of federal relief funds to private schools” during the pandemic, while resisting calls for the Department of Education to take the lead in directing schools how to safely reopen. Noting that U.S. public schools were closed for more than twice as long as those in the U.K. and China, Kamenetz cites evidence that the absence of America’s “most broadly accessible welfare institutions” caused food insecurity to double, even as many children gained weight due to a lack of exercise. She also claims that student-organized protests over the murder of George Floyd by police provided “catharsis, after a season of confinement and monotony,” and sketches how parents and teachers can foster children’s “posttraumatic growth.” Striking an expert balance between the big picture and intimate profiles of students, teachers, parents, and school officials, this is an astute and vital first draft of history.

  • Library Journal

    June 1, 2022

    Kamenetz leaves no stone unturned in her extensive exploration of the vast problems children faced during the first year of the COVID pandemic. The book features interviews with parents and children dealing with being an afterthought in many policies created to counter the virus. Kamenetz takes historical deep dives and makes numerous data points, covering everything from the failing programs of school lunches and childcare to the poorly handled crisis in the U.S. related to mental health care and treatments for children of all ages. Although this focuses on her expertise in education, Kamenetz deftly navigates the cracks in many pre-pandemic systems, cracks that exploded at the onset in March 2020. Ultimately, she argues, these failures will leave millions of children with avoidable adverse effects for years to come. This is not an optimistic book but certainly a comprehensive one. Kamenetz's feat will surely be followed up with additional studies for years to come. For now, it's a great starting point for the discussion. VERDICT Recommended for parenting and education-focused collections.--Halie Kerns

    Copyright 2022 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    June 15, 2022
    An account of the massive educational disruption caused by the pandemic. Though Covid-19 hit everyone hard, Kamenetz, the lead digital education correspondent for NPR, focuses on its wide-reaching effects on children in this well-researched, enlightening book. The author goes into welcome depth on the consequences of a year without in-person schooling, chronicling her interviews with children who have health issues and compromised immune systems, those with special needs who function better with a regular routine, and those from low-income families who rely on the school lunch program. The parents are also an integral part of the book, and Kamenetz is sympathetic to their plights with lost jobs due to downsizing or the necessity of child care. Throughout, the author shares the small details of quotidian life, creating a crystal-clear picture of the extent to which the pandemic has affected children. During 2020 and 2021, countless children suffered greater hunger, had an indifference to schoolwork, and became fearful, depressed, anxious, and withdrawn. Their trauma equaled--or often exceeded--that of adults, but few received adequate assistance. Unfortunately, the author also shows how the trauma is not over for millions and that what they experienced during the height of the pandemic will haunt them for years. She is careful to note, however, that "not one of them is doomed." After noting the ways that government, health, and education officials let children down, Kamenetz offers useful ideas on what areas must change, including an overhaul of the system that determines guidelines for special needs, placing more value on the work of caregivers, and revamping the entire welfare system. No one knows the long-term effects the pandemic will have on children, but Kamenetz gives readers areas to watch as time progresses and the pandemic waxes and wanes in the years to come. An insightful, educative treatise from a seasoned professional.

    COPYRIGHT(2022) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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How COVID Changed Children's Lives, and Where We Go Now
Anya Kamenetz
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