From legislation to lunchtime reading, the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of Special Education Programs care about literacy in this country. Picture the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, holding a book, and Kareem Dale, the Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy, reading If I Ran for President in braille to about 100 attentively listening young kids, ages 4-8, and their parents. Soon Congressman Jim Langevin from Rhode Island joined the group and read House Mouse, Senate Mouse.
The event was the Department of Education’s “Let’s Read. Let’s Move” summer enrichment program on July 30 in support of literacy, continued reading, healthy lifestyles, and physical activity. Following the “Let’s Read” part of the program, Quinton Aaron, screen actor and star of the Academy award nominated film The Blind Side inspired the kids as the special guest for “Let’s Move.”
Bookshare was honored to participate to demonstrate how students who can’t access print, can read digital accessible books on a variety of devices and with several different software applications. This particular event was inclusive, as classrooms should be, with kids with disabilities participating equally in the activities. Many of the kids without disabilities were very interested in learning about accessible ways to read and planned to tell their friends who would benefit.
A main component of the program is a focus on summer reading, as research shows that reading achievement stalls over the summer, and for many disadvantaged children, actually worsens. In an announcement about the program Secretary Duncan commented, “We know that for far too many children, reading achievement stalls when schoolwork stops during the summer. In fact, most low-income children can lose more than two months of reading skills progress during the summer break. The key to stopping summer learning loss is reading. If a child reads a minimum of five books between June and August, they will be on track for success next school year.”
Equally important aspects of the program are health and physical fitness, as emerging research indicates that obesity is becoming a threat to the future of one-third of all American children. According to some studies, children can gain weight three times faster during the summer months, which is often equal to the amount of weight they would typically gain over the course of an entire school year.
Summer’s not over yet. There’s still time. Follow the example set by our government and top leaders, and find the time the time to help our nation’s youth read and move. Please add a comment about what you’ll be doing before school starts to support “Let’s read and let’s move.”