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Remote learning sets kids back an average of 2 months. Here’s what Macy’s and RIF are doing to help underserved students who are falling behind.
Photo courtesy of Macy's
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When almost all of the nation's schoolchildren were forced to embark upon remote learning, everyone struggled to stay afloat: families, students, and teachers. Despite the heroic efforts of educators and families, remote learning presented significant challenges for students, particularly those of lower socioeconomic status.

It's not yet clear the significant learning challenges all students faced last year and the resulting impact as many students return to in person learning this Fall. Preliminary data suggests significant learning loss - particularly among children of color.

The ability to read and write is the foundation upon which an education is built, and research shows students of color and those in high-poverty communities fell even further behind during remote learning than their peers. For example, the sudden shift to remote schooling in Spring 2020 set White students back by 1-3 months in math, while students of color lost 3-5 months of learning.

This systemic inequity that has existed in the American education system for decades has disproportionately left students of color behind, and the COVID-19 school closures multiplied this challenge, impacting a generation of already at-risk youth. Disparities in access to computers, home internet connections, and direct instruction from teachers, all have played a role in this crisis since the start of the pandemic. Even prior to the pandemic, 65% of children in the U.S. were not reading at the proficient level, and 2/3 of U.S. children living in poverty don't have a children's book in their home.


Macy's is a longtime partner of Reading Is Fundamental, the nation's largest children's literacy nonprofit organization; this year, they're taking action to address this overwhelming problem via back-to-school shopping. Every time you shop at Macy's in August, round up your in-store purchase to the nearest dollar up to 99 cents or donate online to help support children's literacy. Every $4 donated purchases one book, and one hundred percent of donations go directly to literacy programs for local children.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Over the past 18 years, Macy's partnership with Reading Is Fundamental has provided more than 14 million books and thousands of supplemental reading resources to kids across the country. Your support will have a direct impact on communities across the country by funding critical literacy needs in communities that have the greatest need.

"At Robert Head Start & Early Head Start, we ordered our books from [Reading Is Fundamental] last school year and were able to distribute them to the children during a time when children really needed extra support at home while school was often closed for weeks at a time due to COVID-19. It was really wonderful to watch the children select their own book from the rich variety.

"As staff, we enjoyed seeing the children's eyes light up as they would select the book they really wanted. It also helped us to learn about their likes and in some ways their dislikes. We were able to provide several opportunities throughout the school year in which the children were given the opportunity to select a book as we actually had enough for each child to receive three books. The grant supported by Macy's not only helped us during a time of need when the children were spending so few days in an actual classroom, it provided the children with the beginning of their own home library," said Brenda Laurent, the Center Manager at Regina Coeli Child Development Center in Robert, LA.

Supporting students who struggled with and fell behind due to the negative learning impacts of the pandemic will require all of us to pull together. Improved literacy not only benefits today's children, but future generations shaping the trajectory of our country.

via FIRST

FIRST students compete in a robotics challenge.

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Societies all over the world face an ever-growing list of complex issues that require informed solutions. Whether it’s addressing infectious diseases, the effects of climate change, supply chain issues or resource scarcity, the world has an immediate need for problem-solvers with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.

Here in the United States, we’re experiencing a shortage of much-needed STEM workers, and forward-thinking organizations are stepping up to tap into America’s youth to fill the void. As the leading youth-serving nonprofit advancing STEM education, FIRST is an important player in this arena, and its mission is to inspire young people aged 4 to 18 to become technology leaders and innovators capable of addressing the world’s pressing needs.

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1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Marlon Brando on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1973.

Marlon Brando made one of the biggest Hollywood comebacks in 1972 after playing the iconic role of Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather.” The venerable actor's career had been on a decline for years after a series of flops and increasingly unruly behavior on set.

Brando was a shoo-in for Best Actor at the 1973 Academy Awards, so the actor decided to use the opportunity to make an important point about Native American representation in Hollywood.

Instead of attending the ceremony, he sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a Yaqui and Apache actress and activist, dressed in traditional clothing, to talk about the injustices faced by Native Americans.

She explained that Brando "very regretfully cannot accept this generous award, the reasons for this being … the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee."

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Co-sleeping isn't for everyone.

The marital bed is a symbol of the intimacy shared between people who’ve decided to be together 'til death they do part. When couples sleep together it’s an expression of their closeness and how they care for one another when they are most vulnerable.

However, for some couples, the marital bed can be a warzone. Throughout the night couples can endure snoring, sleep apnea, the ongoing battle for sheets or circadian rhythms that never seem to sync. If one person likes to fall asleep with the TV on while the other reads a book, it can be impossible to come to an agreement on a good-night routine.

Last week on TODAY, host Carson Daly reminded viewers that he and his wife Siri, a TODAY Food contributor, had a sleep divorce while she was pregnant with their fourth child.

“I was served my sleep-divorce papers a few years ago,” he explained on TODAY. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to us. We both, admittedly, slept better apart.”

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