In “The Stolen Year: How COVID Changed Children’s Lives, and Where We Go Now” by Anya Kamenetz, readers are taken on a narrative journey through the extensive educational disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While COVID-19 profoundly impacted everyone, the author’s focus in this meticulously researched and enlightening book centers on the far-reaching consequences it had on children.
Kamenetz delves deep into the aftermath of a year without in-person schooling, chronicling her interviews with various groups of children, including those with health issues and compromised immune systems, children with special needs who thrive on regular routines, and kids from low-income families who rely on school lunch programs.
The book also explores the vital role of parents in this narrative, sympathetically acknowledging their struggles, whether stemming from job loss due to downsizing or the challenges of balancing work and childcare. Throughout the book, Kamenetz shares everyday details, painting a vivid picture of the extent to which the pandemic has affected children.
During 2020 and 2021, countless children grappled with increased hunger, a lack of enthusiasm for schoolwork, and feelings of fear, depression, anxiety, and withdrawal. Their trauma often equaled or surpassed that of adults, yet many received inadequate support.
Regrettably, Kamenetz also illustrates that the trauma is far from over for millions, and the experiences of the pandemic’s peak will continue to haunt them for years. However, she is quick to point out that “not one of them is doomed.”
After highlighting how government, health, and education officials fell short in their support for children, the author presents valuable ideas for necessary changes. These include an overhaul of the system governing guidelines for special needs, a greater recognition of the contributions of caregivers, and a comprehensive reevaluation of the welfare system.
While the long-term effects of the pandemic on children remain uncertain, Kamenetz provides readers with areas to monitor as time unfolds and the pandemic’s influence continues to fluctuate in the years to come.