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February 22, 2015

Michelle Obama Gets Kids Moving and Reading in the East Wing

by Megan Waters

It’s not often you see a band of kids jumping, moving, and having a blast with the Cat in the Hat and the first lady. But that was the sight during the “Let’s Move! Let’s Read!” event held in the East Wing of the White House, where the worlds of reading and fitness came together to raise awareness for child health and wellness.

Forty local students, decked out in red and white striped hats, listened as First Lady Michelle Obama read Oh, the Things You Can Do That Are Good For You, a new Dr. Seuss book that focuses on healthy habits. The reading became interactive as YMCA volunteers and Mrs. Obama, led exercises from the book. Students hopped, jogged, and limboed, learning why its important to stay active and how reading can be fun!

The “Let’s Move! Let’s Read!” initiative launched in 2010 by the Department of Education in conjunction with the Corporation for National and Community Service. The initiative aims to enhance healthy lifestyles in young students by preventing the summer reading backslide and generating awareness for childhood obesity.

As one of the local AmeriCorps volunteers enlisted to help out at the event, I was thrilled to represent Reading Partners at the White House. I was joined by Bryce King, a fellow AmeriCorps compatriot serving with Playworks. We had a great time seeing how our two worlds of reading and playing could blend together for the benefit of students.

When it comes to reading, on average, children from low-income families lose nearly three months of grade-level equivalency during the summer months each year.

During the event I also learned that over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled.

While both obesity and literacy rates disproportionately affect low-income students, “Let’s Move! Let’s Read” is an invaluable initiative for all kids. Students need to be keeping their mind and body active whether in school, at home, in the reading center, or on the playground.

Some of our Reading Partners students from Drew and Seaton Elementary Schools were invited to participate at the White House event too. As I looked out at their wide-eyes and large grins, I couldn’t help but feel the message was reaching them. One of our students even recapped the events and exercises from the event with his tutor during their session the following Monday.

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