Sunday, March 8, 2009

"The Treasure of Health and Happiness" A Great Book to Read to Your Class

How do you introduce children to the joys of running? How can you get them to understand the benefits of playful activity, personal fitness, and healthy eating? In today's culture this is a serious concern for parents, teachers, and health experts. Children today are bombarded with amusements that lead to a sedentary lifestyle and they have a mutlitude of unhealthy eating choices that can have them packing on pounds that leave them even more unwilling to "go outside and play".

Carol Goodrow is one person who has made it a mission to help kids learn to be healthy and to enjoy exercise. She is an elementary school teacher as well as the creator of the wonderful website, which is a website. Kidsrunning is a website full of programs, activities, advice, interviews, news, and all sorts of information geared towards kids, parents, and teachers. Carol Goodrow is also an author and artist (just look at the whimsical pictures gracing her website) and like on her website and with her teaching she is on a mission to help kids enjoy healthier living.

"The Treasure of Health and Happiness" by Carol Goodrow is a book I recently used as a read-aloud with my fourth grade students. I teach a class of typical fourth graders except I have twice as many boys as I do girls in my class and I wasn't sure exactly how my boys would react to a book that has a girl as a main character as well as a book that seems a bit more "gentle" than the books they typically enjoy.

We started reading anyhow. The story is about a girl named Hannah who is not very healthy or athletic. In fact because she is not good at sports and activities she doesn't feel very good about herself. I noticed my class became empathetic to Hannah because of her feelings of inadequecy. I think many of them have had those same feelings as well. When Hannah receives a puppy for her birthday my kids were quite enthralled. When Hannah started placing signs on her bedroom door to deal with the disobedient puppy the kids giggled with delight! I also noticed that whenever I held up one of the pictures from the book that the kids all tried to get as close as they could to get a good look at all the details and the unique artwork.

A large part of the book involves a dream that Hannah has about a treasure map. As she follows the map she learns skills that she accomplishes such as ball-throwing, riding a bicycle, eating healthy foods, and eventually running. Hannah learns what she has to do to take care of herself and to be a healthier and happpier person. The book is not preachy at all as it involves discoveries by Hannah not choices made for Hannah. I feel this was presented in a way that allows children to think of discoveries (or choices)they can make on their own journeys towards becoming healthier people. Hannah begins her own training towards competing in a "Chipmunk Chase" running race, something she was to afraid to enter at the beginning of the story.

My class enjoyed the story. Boys being boys, the "gentlemen" in my class did say they wanted some "monsters" to chase Hannah during the dream sequence. They also wanted to know more about the toad that Toby, Hannah's dog, picked up in his mouth.

I think this book is excellent for teachers to read and discuss with their classes or for parents to read with their children. My guess is that girls would enjoy reading it on their own. Some of the devices used in the book: treasure maps and treasure chests, jewels,and descriptions of things that sparkle and glitter reminded me of the type of make-believe play that my sisters and their friends often engaged in long ago.

I do know that my kids were very much engaged by the story and I believe it left some seeds in their own minds about how they can maintain or seek after a more healthy lifestyle.

Here are a few brief comments that some students in my class wrote about the book.

"I liked the book. I think people will eat better and exercise more if they read "The Treasure of Health and Happiness.""

"I liked the German Shepard. That is my favorite kind of dog. I liked when Toby had a toad in his mouth. It was cool when Hannah made a leash out of a stick and a string. The book inspired me to eat healthy and stay fit."

"I like the book and how she started out as a girl who was unhealthy. Then she got healty and started to run. That got me thinking about doing cross-country."

"I liked the book very much. My favorite part was her dream. I liked the parts where she runs a mile and goes fishing."

You can order the book at as well as download some free printables for the classroom.

You can also find a couple of interviews from a few years back of me on

Imagine Teaching a Full Day of School and THEN Running the Boston Marathon

Teacher Runner Jim Hansen Finishes Boston Marathon last, but he is the winner in his schoolchildren's eyes

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