Summer vacation fitness for kids...mentally and physically
During a special service event at the Kennedy Recreation Center in Washington today, First Lady Michelle Obama launched the second annual nationwide United We Serve Summer Service Initiative. This year, the project blends Mrs. Obama's Let's Move! campaign for healthy eating and exercise with an effort to boost kids' academic success by encouraging summer reading, with the theme Let’s Read. Let’s Move.
As kids across America go on summer break, the new component of Mrs. Obama's battle to eliminate childhood obesity is targeting the unhealthy habits that can often develop during vacation, as well as making an attempt to combat "summer reading loss." (Above: Mrs. Obama, flanked by Rep. Barbara Lee (l), and Rep. Betty McCollum during the service event)
While calling on all Americans "to make service a part of their daily lives,” Mrs. Obama noted that “We are asking individuals and community organizations, corporations, foundations, and government to come together and devote their time and energy to help our kids stay active and healthy – and to keep them learning – all summer long.”
Kids will be encouraged to read five books over the summer, and adults are being encouraged to get active in their local communities to do everything possible to help kids eat healthy, exercise, and stay mentally fit, too.
"We’re going to need people to step up and volunteer to build and renovate playgrounds, and clear walking trails, and create community gardens, and organize book drives, and to take the time to serve as tutors and as mentors and to read to children of all ages," Mrs. Obama said.
“Research shows that academic achievement stalls and, for far too many disadvantaged children, actually worsens if they are not engaged in high-quality educational activities during the summer,” said Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, in remarks on a press call.
An administration-wide initiative
The Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Education, and Health and Human Services are joining the effort, with campaigns to encourage parents, educators, and youth groups to get kids outdoors, keep them active, and encourage them to plant community gardens and learn about healthy foods. The Department of Education is also running the Summer Enrichment Series, which has Cabinet Secretaries and other administration officials reading to kids each week.
"A few hours a week can really make the difference," Mrs. Obama said about the role of adults in Let's Read Let's Move. "You don’t need to be a specialist. You don't need to be a math tutor. You don't need to be a physical fitness expert. You don't even need to really be in shape yourself."
After her remarks, the First Lady and members of Congress and their families, who came from around the country, packed Healthy Lifestyle Kits for kids in the DC area. These included jump ropes and other portable activity equipment, as well as healthy snacks and nutritional information designed for children. The Members and their families are scheduled to attend the annual Congressional Picnic at the White House this evening.
Information on how to volunteer for Let's Read Let's Move is available here. The Summer Service initiative is being run by the Corporation For National and Community Service, an independent federal government agency that supports such programs as AmeriCorps and Senior Corps. It runs through September 11, 2010, which President Obama last year designated as an annual day of service and remembrance.
A video of Mrs. Obama's remarks at the launch:
Related: Mrs. Obama launched Chefs Move To Schools on Friday, and Let's Move Outside! was launched on June 1.
Photo by Larence Jackson/White House.