Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Urbana Free Library Gets Healthy

It isn’t easy to get a room full of squirming preschoolers to quiet down, but when Barb Lintner, director of children’s services at
The Urbana Free Library pulled out a caterpillar puppet and a copy of The Hungry Caterpillar at a recent library story hour, the room fell silent. All eyes were on Lintner as the caterpillar ate his way through a week’s worth of familiar foods.

The focus of this story hour was healthy habits and Lintner used the puppet and the book to introduce preschoolers to a variety of fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods. Lintner and the library are part of C-U Fit Families, a coalition of 60 local individuals and organizations working together to promote childhood wellness in the Champaign-Urbana community. The idea for the story hour came from conversations Lintner had with other C-U Fit Family members. “Since I’ve been on the committee I’ve been ‘chomping at the bit’ to get information into the hands of real people, and I am really glad that it’s working,” says Lintner.

Once the preschoolers at the story hour finished discussing fruits and vegetables, Lintner conducted a simple portion size demonstration. She poured water into cups and asked the children to guess which cup held more liquid. The task was difficult and the kids guessed wrong about 50% of the time, but activities like this one introduce young children to the concepts of portion size and portion control.
Before the story hour ended, Lintner asked all the children to join her in a rousing round of The Hokey Pokey. Judging from the children’s response, Lintner’s story hour was a smashing success.

In addition to hosting a healthy habits story hour, the library created a bibliography of adult and children’s books on topics related to childhood wellness and obesity prevention. “We’ve passed out about 100 bibliographies so far, which is good for two months,” Lintner explains.
Topics covered in the bibliography include:

  • Healthy Food Choices
  • Active Living
  • Shared Family Meals
  • Healthy Cooking for Healthy Kids
  • Access to Healthy Food at Home and at School and
  • Food Advertising and Marketing
The library also created a healthy habits display using books from the bibliography as well as books, CDs and DVDs from a
Sesame Workshop Healthy Habits for Life kit provided by
Illinois Public Media. The display drew attention from library patrons and Lintner says, “The books with the Sesame Street characters were particularly appealing. I added my own Elmo and Cookie Monster to the display which did help attract children.” Items on the display were checked out a maximum number of times and some items had holds.

If you are interested in exploring some of these materials for your family, visit the children’s department at The Urbana Free Library or check out the bibliography online at: http://www.urbanafreelibrary.org/children/books/booklists/fit_kids.php

1 comment:

  1. Fabulous story. How fun! It's so great to learn about how people in the community are using creative ways to teach health and engage youth.