Now in its fifth year, with 27 events and nearly 4,000 students reading, moving, and receiving free books, the Let’s Read! Let’s Move! program continues to help students keep their minds and bodies active throughout the summer months, while learning about historic and iconic locations in Washington, D.C.
With its beginnings at the U.S. Department of Education, Let’s Read! Let’s Move! comes full circle, raising awareness of summer learning, physical activity, and nutrition from the East Room of the White House to the chambers of the United States Supreme Court, through Smithsonian museums, even making a debut on the Millennium Stage of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and concluding this year, back in the halls of a neighborhood school.
As summer quickly fades and students and teachers across the country return to the classroom, let’s revisit some of the highlights from this year’s summer series, which taught students how healthy, active lifestyles can benefit them all year long.
The National Archives and Records Administration
On the morning of July 1, students from the Washington, D.C. area celebrated the 239th birthday of the Declaration of Independence. Seated just a few feet away from the historic document, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero, world-renowned Chef José Andrés, Miss America, and Thomas Jefferson read In 1776 by Jean Marzollo.
Learning about the Declaration of Independence with some special guests – including Thomas Jefferson. Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education
Afterwards, Chef Andrés encouraged healthy eating and living by providing a nutritious snack of portable vegetable gazpacho. The energetic group of children also participated in Independence Day themed physical activities, such as Dance for the Declaration, Limbo for Life, Long Jump for Liberty, and a sack race, Pounce for the Pursuit of Happiness.
Jumping competitions and bean bag races at the National Archives. Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Children filled the Grand Foyer and Opera House steps on July 22 as Let’s Read! Let’s Move! danced into the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts celebrating the 25th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and the 40th anniversary of the Very Special Arts (VSA).
Readers, dancers, and kids celebrating the power of books and movement. Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education
The morning began with the soulful tunes of the Victor Haskins jazz trio as they taught the children about forms of non-verbal communication, such as music. Suddenly a trio of ballerinas, from Washington Ballet’s @THEARC Performance Ensemble, pirouetted and chasséd into the Grand Foyer where they introduced Secretary Duncan and other special guests including U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, Executive Director of Let’s Move! and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Deb Eschmeyer, Vice President of Education at the Kennedy Center Mario Rossero, and Lawrence Carter-Long, a performer in Heidi Latsky’s acclaimed dance troupe GIMP.
Aligned with the day’s theme “Dance is for Every Body,” Secretary Duncan, Deb Eschmeyer, Surgeon General Murthy, and the other participants read Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, a story about Gerald the giraffe who did not dance like the rest of the animals; yet, after listening to the music around him, he learned to dance to his own beat.
Following the reading, the U.S. Surgeon General and his friends from Dholi Ram took to the stage and soon had everyone, young and old, of all abilities, bhangra dancing to “Uptown Funk.” He even snuck in a move from First Lady Michelle Obama’s #GimmeFive dance.
Everyone had fun dancing to the music. Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education
Seaton Elementary School, Washington, D.C.
For the final event of the summer, Let’s Read! Let’s Move! took a field trip to a local elementary school located in the historic Shaw neighborhood. Wearing pink and red fire helmets provided by the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, children from D.C. Public Schools and the YMCA’s Power Scholars Academy eagerly took their seats in anticipation of the fun day ahead. Kofi Dennis, of the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning through the Arts, expertly encouraged literacy and movement though a program of exciting song and dance using drums, rhythm and rhyme.
Special guests read The Incredible Book Eating Boy. Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education
Six members of the award-winning Seaton girls’ soccer team, both champions on the field and in the classroom, performed a cheer exclaiming that “education is the GOAL!” before introducing Secretary Duncan and the day’s special guests, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald and his wife Diane, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Chief Gregory Dean, and D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid. The special guests read The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers.
After the story, the children participated in an obstacle course where they trained like actual fire fighters. Following their “fire fighter fitness training,” the children practiced like professional soccer players with D.C. United and 2014 Major League Soccer Goalkeeper of the Year Bill Hamid. The Seaton girls’ soccer team joined in to assist Hamid, the YMCA, and the younger children with agility drills, which emphasized quick footwork.
Kids staying active with fire fighters and soccer footwork. Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Education