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Dr. Michael Opitz, University of Northern Colorado - Dietary Literature


Albany, NY – In today's Academic Minute, Dr. Michael Opitz of the University of Northern Colorado examines the link between literacy and physical health.

Michael Opitz is a professor of reading at the University of Northern Colorado and author of several books on reading instruction, including Literacy Lessons to Help Kids Get Fit and Healthy. Opitz works in selected classrooms in the U.S. and abroad planning, teaching and evaluating demonstration lessons focused on different aspects of literacy. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.

About Dr. Opitz

Dr. Michael Opitz - Dietary Literature

Hardly a day goes by without sobering news regarding the health of our nation's children. Nearly one in five American four-year-olds is obese and kindergartners today are heavier than in the 1970s and 80s.

While there are many contributing factors associated with obesity, there is little question that lack of physical activity and poor nutrition are at the core. We have long known that physical activity improves children's circulation while strengthening their bones and muscles. Just as important, though, is compelling evidence that when students engage in physical activity, their academic achievement improves. Brain researchers note that physical activity boosts brain activity, impacting reading the most.

As with physical activity, nutrition also relates to academic achievement. Current research reveals that poor nutrition and obesity are two contributors to lower levels of student achievement. The implication is that when educators support better nutrition, they also support increased academic performance. Without a doubt, children's overall health and their success in school are connected. What does all of this mean for reading? Everything! We know that strengthening one's bodily core will enable greater physical activity, making living a healthy lifestyle more likely. Likewise, healthy children are more likely to excel in academics such as reading.

Clearly, being fit is at the core of reading. Integrating fitness and reading is one way to strengthen children's physical and mental core thereby enabling children to be fit and read well - and read well to stay fit. Using fitness literature, or what I like to call FitLit, as one component of a fitness literacy lesson is a practical, do-able way to achieve this integration.

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