Northwest NEWS

August 21, 2000


Guest Editorial

A Smarter Summer: The Arts Advantage

by Carol H. Rasco, Director, America Reads Challenge

   Is your refrigerator covered with the art of a junior Picasso? If so, you may already know about the arts advantage in education.

   The arts help prepare children to read and write by developing visual and motor skills. Painting, drawing and sculpture also help children learn to make choices, use memory, and express feelings. The educational benefits of other art forms, like dance, drama, and music, are also significant.

   Major studies reveal mutliple advantages when students participate in the arts. The 1999 report Champions of Change found that students who participate in music and theatre, for example, are highly likely to enjoy success in mathmatics and reading.

   In addition, arts learning helps level the playing field for even the most disadvantaged children. The arts can reach students who are bored, failing at convential studies, or otherwise disengaged from learning. These "classroom failures" and "problem students" can become high achievers in arts settings that value diverse styles of learning.

   The visual arts, dance, music, and theatre employ multiple skills and develop abilities that will be highly valued in our children's futures. The evolving workplace has increased the demand for creative thinkers who can generate ideas and communicate in a variety of media. The arts offer excellent training in these critical areas.

   Summertime is playtime for many youngsters, with recreation a high priority. But I urge all parents of young children to make creation a high value, too. Guiding children to arts enjoyment during summer vacation can revitalize learning and open new avenues for expression.

   Here are simple tips for giving kids the arts advantage this summer:

   Babies: Music and movement can soothe, stimulate, and teach. Make singing a ritual throughout the day. Sway, shake rattles, and move the baby's arms and legs to music.

   Toddlers (ages 1-2): Provide spoons, pots, and bowls for drumming. Clap to music and play finger games. Do simple dances to develop balance. Animate sock puppets. Use words to develop speaking and listening skills.

   Preschoolers (ages 2-3): Pretend to be animals. Ask children to respond to different music. Provide dress-up clothes for dramatic play. Let children choose the songs, stories, and colors they prefer. Use Play-Dough.

   Preschoolers (ages 3-4): Act out scenes from favorite books or draw the characters. Try pantomime. Count beats to music. Recite nursery rhymes. Improve dexterity by stringing beads or pasta. Make collages from household junk.

   Primary grades (age 5-8): Tell original stories. Make story books, scrapbooks, and portfolios or artwork. Encourage opinions on other's art. Practice improvisation. Perform a summer play integrating painting, music, dance, and drama.

   Most importantly, make sure it's fun. By nurturing your little Georgia O'Keefe or Alvin Ailey, you can combine creation with recreation and give your child the arts advantage this summer.

   For more tips and activities, see the "Learning Partners" booklet at

   For more information on children and the arts, call (800) USA-LEARN; or visit the Arts Education Partnership at or visit the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts at