Children experiencing homelessness have always been among the most invisible and neglected individuals in the USA, and COVID-19 has significantly worsened their fate. Schools have moved instruction online and this has exposed the huge digital divide between rich and poor: roughly one-in-four households in LA county with school-aged kids lack access to both broadband internet and either a laptop or desktop computer (the greatest levels of disconnection occur among Black and Latinx families). The magnitude of the pandemic on our students' education is expected to be staggering. So you with the trauma responses we expect our students to manifest. These will not be seen or even understood for some time.
When the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were imposed in March, we immediately went into crisis mode, reaching out to students, and surveying shelters as to internet access and hardware available for students, and providing books, school supplies, worksheets, activity and hygiene kits to more than 3,000 students. We also contacted all active tutors, encouraging them to stay in touch with their students via phone, Facetime, or other communication methods. Most importantly, we began the huge pivot to online tutoring: we have distributed over 500 Chromebooks and Kindles; we trained all our staff members to administer online tutoring; and we continue to train volunteers to tutor online.
We spent the Summer locating as many students as possible to position ourselves-and them-for success this year. We expanded our visibility in the community, working with local, regional, and county education departments, school districts, and shelters to ensure appropriate protocols for students to engage in learning and meet with their tutors online; we provided access to digital programs to fill academic gaps and teach critical technology skills. We helped create study areas in motel plazas and reveled in the longer-term bonds we saw between tutors and their students. We encouraged this with a Summer Rewards Program that motivated 307 students to complete at least six online tutoring sessions to receive a Chromebook or other device.
Thanks to funders like GlobalGiving, we continued to roll out our ABC Literacy Program, knowing that reading provides not only a critical academic footing but also an escape from a terrible reality. We are proud to say we have enrolled 260 students in this literacy program so far this year and 70% of them improved 0.63 of a grade level. And we worked on ways to add a Social and Emotional Learning component to the tutoring time, to lessen some of the harsh impacts of the trauma they are suffering.