DC challenges kids to read over the summer

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Washington National Josh Bell with kids at the summer reading event Monday. (WTOP/Luke Lukert)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and other community leaders gathered at the Edgewood Recreation Center on Monday to launch summer programs for kids, including one aimed at improving the reading skills in young children.

The Read 20 Summer Reading Challenge “invites all residents, but especially students, to read at least 20 minutes, but hopefully more, every single day — and we want to emphasize that we want you to read whatever you want,” said D.C. Public Library Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan. “Every single day, read for the pure and sheer joy of reading.“

The program runs from June 1 through Aug. 31, and aims to reduce “summer slide” by gamifying summer learning.

Kids can also win prizes such as tickets to games from D.C. United, the Washington Football Team and the Washington Nationals.

Younger children who attend D.C. Public Schools will also have a little help this year when they begin their reading challenge.

Nearly 20,000 rising 2nd through 5th grade students will receive an artificial intelligence-based tutoring software that comes from Amira Learning and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The software uses AI to listen to a child as they read and identifies ways to improve the child’s foundational reading skills.

“With Amira, the District will have the most advanced education technology ever developed,” said Matthew Mugo Fields, with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Washington National Josh Bell was on hand to share what reading means to him.

“Even though most people wouldn’t consider reading to be a part of my job description,” Bell said, “I don’t think I would be where I am today if I didn’t have so many readers in my family teaching me the importance of reading and what it can do for your mind, body and soul.” He added, “20 minutes a day equates to over a million words read each year.”

Bell also handed out a 2019 Nationals Championship ring to one of the young men at the event. He got special permission to hand it out from the commissioner of the MLB.

D.C.’s Parks and Recreation Department also launched its summer programs, including summer camps.

DPR will provide more 6,500 slots in various camps including swimming camps, specialty sports camps, and therapeutic recreation camps.

They will also run “Boost Camps” for nearly 700 students in Wards 5, 7 and 8. These camps combine recreation and academics for an increased learning experience.

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