Literacy refers to being educated or cultured. If pressed to define literacy, most people would cite the three Rs (Reading, wRiting, and aRitmatic). But modern definitions include literacy in other important areas including: computer/technology, science, humanities (including art and music), health, and physical literacy. We all want our children to be competent in the 3 Rs, and science. Most now recognize the need for computer/technology literacy. Other areas of literacy are often deemed less important. For example, the Scottsdale schools are currently considering cutting music, art, and physical education programs to save money. When finances are tight, these areas of literacy are often neglected. All to frequently these subjects are pitted against each other, ignoring the fact that the “whole child” comes to school, and that literacy in all three areas is critical to overall learning and child well-being.
It is interesting that when buying a home, buyers indicate that price, size, and good schools are the top three criteria that they consider. People, especially parents, prefer areas such as Ahwatukee Foothills because of the quality of the schools (Kyrene and Tempe Union). Part of the reason for the reputation of our schools is that they value all areas of literacy.
For example, ads in the Ahwatukee Foothills News for Kyrene kindergarten emphasize the inclusion of music, art, and physical education. Unfortunately, all of these programs have been reduced in recent years, but there is hope that they will be fully restored as funding improves with the economy.
As the son of an art teacher and a musician I value all areas of literacy, including art and music. My expertise, however, is in physical literacy and health literacy. The national Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America) defines a physically literate person as one who:
• Participates regularly in physical activity.
• Is physically fit.
• Has learned skills necessary to perform a variety of physical activities.
• Values physical activity and its contribution to healthy living.
• Knows the implications and benefits of being involved in physical activities.
The Institute of Medicine defines health literacy as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”
Evidence suggests that youth now in school may be the first in many generations to have a shorter life span than their parents. Helping our children to, not only be active, healthy, and fit; but also have the knowledge to be active, healthy, and fit for a lifetime is essential to long-term well-being. The health of our children, and those we love most, is a primary goal for parents. Helping children to achieve both physical and health literacy is essential to achieving his goal. The whole child comes to school, so all areas of literacy are important. One type of literacy should not be sacrificed at the expense of another.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Dr. Charles “Chuck” Corbin is professor emeritus at Arizona State University. He is the author of more than 90 books on fitness and exercise, was the first chair of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition Science Board, and served on the Institute of Medicine Committee on Fitness Measures and Health Outcomes in Youth. He was a charter member of the advisory board for FITNESSGRAM.