Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Books: The anti-chocolate

Today's headline: New Study Proves Beacon Street Girls Fight Childhood Obesity.

A new study from Duke Children's Hospital indicates the Beacon Street Girls' popular book series helps tween girls improve their eating and exercise habits, and significantly improve their Body Mass Index (BMI) percentiles. The study was presented over the weekend at the Obesity Society annual scientific meeting.

More on this topic: Can Reading Help Kids Lose Weight? (Time Magazine) Can Reading Help Children Lose Weight? (ITWire). Editing to add: Youth lit used as weight loss tool (USA Today)

I'm intrigued, to say in the least. More specifically, I'm intrigued as to what it is about this particular Beacon Street Girls book that encouraged weight loss. I have to wonder: If this specific BSG book encourages weight loss, would other books encourage other behaviors, that is, behaviors that go beyond something like kids dressing as Harry Potter for Halloween and having impromptu Quidditch games in their back yards? The ITWire article says:

The special point about the book was that it contains special passages that pointed out the correct ways to live a healthy lifestyle. It also mentions ways to control weight, along with the use of role models and positive statements geared toward weight loss and healthy lifestyle.

Now, I have not read Lake Rescue, the book that helped with the weight loss, but it seems like it was engineered to send these healthy living messages. If that's the case, at what point does a book make kids change their ways and can other books have similar effects? Where does a book like this become didactic? One of the points librarians always make when faced with people who want to pull books from our shelves because they might "give children the wrong ideas" is that children do have the ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. I don't doubt this for a second, but now it seems like, if you squint at it, these books exploit a blurred line between fantasy and reality. Yes, that's very tinhat of me, I'm just trying to go to the extreme on the other side. Has anyone read Lake Rescue? What's in there that would inspire tween girls to lose weight, and more importantly, what isn't in other titles for tweens that would inspire them to, say, travel the world or stop bullying or volunteer at an animal rescue?

1 comment:

bsgbobbie said...

You should check out the whole series -- they are first and foremost fun stories for tweens but each one does teach important life lessons and address situations that preteen girls are familiar with -- being the new kid in school, making friends, even "tougher" topics like cyber-bullying and Internet Gossip. Lake Rescue was created with overweight kids in mind but it is also a fun story and is often cited as a particular favorite among fans who enjoy the story about a class field trip. On the other end of the spectrum, Fashion Frenzy, (book 9 in the series) addresses unrealistic body image and fashion's impact on girls' views of their weight.