Move It, Lose It, Learn It

What do black parents need to do to unpack the pounds and tackle obesity-related health issues with their kids?


Fat, fatter, fattest. That’s the harshly accurate description of many kids today. Childhood obesity rates have doubled over the past decade, and kids have gone from being fat to severely obese. Overall, African-American children are statistically the fattest compared with their white and Latino counterparts. And fat kids mean unhealthy kids. Obese children and adolescents are at increased risk for developing cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Unfortunately, obesity isn’t something kids outgrow; obese children are more likely to become obese adults.

Logged On, Tuned Out

Why are kids packing on the pounds? A big factor is our sedentary lifestyle. We’ve turned into a nation of couch potatoes and mini spuds and spend far too much time indoors and online instead of outside and moving our bodies. Then there’s the increased pressure faced by schools to pass standardized academic tests; as a result, many public schools have eliminated physical education classes and recess.

So how do we engage both the brain and the body? One way is through Litereracise: That’s the concept created by children’s book author Irene Smalls, and it tackles the dual problems of plummeting educational achievement and skyrocketing obesity rates.

Literacy+Exercise=Fit Smart Kids

Smalls came to this realization one day while she was teaching and reading to kids. While she peppered them with questions, they were dancing and moving. Not only did they answer the questions correctly, but they were moving, laughing and having fun while doing so. Smalls recognized the importance of reaching out to the whole child so he or she could move and learn at the same time. That inspired her to find ways to tap into the mind-body connection. Since then, she’s made it her mission to promote Literacy+Exercise, or Literacise.

Small Steps

Literacise is poised to take a big leap with the opening of Story Steps, an interactive educational art exhibit opening Oct. 3 at Copley Square in Boston. It’s based on "Jonathan & His Mommy" a story about a young boy and his mom taking a walk. The bilingual English/Spanish exhibit gives children a chance to connect physically with reading and learning. Smalls’ goal is to spread the word and bring Story Steps to other libraries and museums in the U.S. and around the world.