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Children throughout the state are benefitting from a new magazine that teaches them that healthy living is fun.
FIT4FUN is a colorful magazine that encourages creativity, critical thinking and a healthy lifestyle for children in kindergarten through third grade.
The Kentucky Children’s Health and Fitness Fund, created by Jan Winter of La Grange, distributes FIT4FUN to all Kentucky schools.
“It’s a collection of timeless wisdom,” Winter said.
FIT4FUN is a textbook, but not in the traditional sense.
It’s light, and takes up little space in a backpack.
Your child won’t have to share it because all 214,000 students from kindergarten through third grade in 797 Kentucky public elementary schools receive a free copy.
That’s what makes FIT4FUN unique, Winter said – the child owns the book and the information inside it.
The magazine is full of puns, logic games and poetry.
“Not Dr. Seuss. We print a lot of free verse. Very big words, and interesting semantics.”
FIT4FUN is also for use at home, and students at Centerfield, Harmony and Liberty Elementary schools brought the magazine home to their parents this year.
Jump OFFs, little signs at the bottom of the page, activate parents as co-educators.
On the topic of bullying, for example, parents are asked “How do we handle it in our family?”
Cary Willis of New West Advertising & Public Relations, which produces FIT4FUN, said his 7-year-old daughter, Lydia, was ecstatic when she brought the magazine home in her backpack.
“Anything that helps children think about healthy choices is beneficial,” Willis said. “We try to talk to our kids every day about what you eat, quantities you eat, what sugar does to you.”
He said the messages in FIT4FUN are always positive and fun, and encourage students to be independent thinkers.
Students are encouraged to seek information beyond the magazine with LOOK ‘EM UPS, which entice them to look for definitions of big words and concepts.
About 50 percent of students from kindergarten to third-grade are non-readers, Winter said, so FIT4FUN includes empty spaces for them to draw responses.
And because contemporary cartoon characters don’t always give children the right message – “SpongeBob goes to Burger King and Dora eats McDonald’s,” Winter said – four lovable cartoon characters support the magazine’s four pillars: imagination, playing, learning and growing.
“We really want kids to think of themselves as big idea people,” Winter said. “Open up your little head.”
Winter is a mother of twins who grew up in the Oldham County school system and founder of a sports program for children with special needs.
She developed the reader three years ago when she realized the was nothing on newsstands to teach young children about healthy living.
She also found that a course about personal health taught in Kentucky schools was conveyed to children in “a hodgepodge” of different ways.
She looked for a non-profit statewide partner to help fund the project, but could not find one that met her requirements.
So she started the Kentucky Children’s Health and Fitness Fund.
The fund worked with the Kentucky Department of Education, and in March 2010, distributed 5,000 copies of FIT4FUN to Oldham County schools for a test run.
Two months later, 55,000 copies went to public school students enrolled in Jefferson, Shelby and Oldham counties.
The success of the trial made FIT4FUN part of the Kentucky school curriculum.
FIT4FUN is just now having donation and grant success from partners such as Smile Kentucky, which provides dental education screenings and free dental care to school-age children, Idea Festival’s IF Kids program, the Partnership for a Fit Kentucky, and Action for Healthy Kids.
Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday also endorsed the magazine.
The response from schools has been “incredibly overwhelmingly positive,” with 98 percent of Kentucky superintendents giving FIT4FUN the highest possible rating for ease of use and coverage of curriculum.
Winter admitted there are some bugs to be worked out. Some schools have given the readers to the wrong grade level, for example. Winter plans to develop a newsstand version of FIT4FUN and a website “with a little kid social network,” which will help children practice healthy behaviors daily.
She hopes to offer the magazine to home-schooled students and students enrolled in private school soon. She also plans to market the brand out-of-state.
“This is a culmination of everything I learned professionally, everything I love about life. I love kids, I love empowering kids,” Winter said. “I love making kids feel like they can be set free.”
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