Reading & Riding—a Really Good Idea

The “Read & Ride” program in Ward Elementary School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina is so simple, it is simply brilliant. This NBC Today Show segment below frames it as a way for educators to solve the (classroom management) problem of “fidgety kids.” However, the power of reading while riding (on donated stationary bikes) goes well beyond addressing classroom management issues. It promotes “action-based learning” which feeds the body and the mind. No bikes? No problem. Schools around the country are using bouncy balls, standing desks, bungee cords—anything to provide a vehicle through which students can “expel energy,” as described in the video:

While the report links student participation in Read and Ride (at least three times per week) with increased rates in reading proficiency, the program has much deeper and broader implications for children (and adults). Increasing students’ physical movement during (and throughout) the school day addresses the serious challenges faced by children today: Rising rates of physical inactivity and obesity-related illnesses. In fact, several studies report that such cardiovascular activity increases brain function and has a direct positive effect on academic performance (see chapters 1 and 5 in Healthy Teens, Healthy Schools: How Media Literacy Education Can Renew Education in the United States).

What is there not to like about the Read and Ride program? If you use your stationary bike at home as a clothes hanger more than you use it as a piece of fitness equipment, consider donating it to a good cause. In fact, you can donate yours right now to a high needs school in South Carolina on

Afterall, there is a lot riding on the health of children in the United States.

In the Know About H20

The Story of Stuff project team is known for their creativity and critical consumer and environmental activism in partnership with empowered marketer Free Range Studios. In 2010 they create an insightful and incisive movie titled, “The Story of Bottled Water.” Anne Leonard is an amiable media literacy tour guide, pointing out to viewers the foolish and nonsensical reasons why bottled water is so popular yet ultimately so wasteful. In just a little more than 8 minutes, Leonard delves fairly deep into the advertising techniques to create the need and perpetuate the demand for bottled water and the corporate advertising techniques to perpetuate the myth. Sadly, our notions of recycling aren’t exactly grounded in reality either. Most salient is that it answers the question: “Which is better for our bodies and environment: Tap water or bottled water?”

Loriana Romano from Canadian-based Teaching Rocks provides a media literacy worksheet to accompany “The Story of Bottled Water” that you can [download here]. It integrates Science, Geography (and Social Studies), and Media Literacy.

But there is a twist in the flow of information (and water) here.

What happens when a public health tragedy rises to the surface, as is the case with the water crisis in Flint, Michigan? It’s enough to lose faith in the safety of tap water, isn’t it?  Corporate execs who bottle water are suddenly the rescuers of innocent victims. And the villains are now the corrupt politicians and city officials of Flint. There is no denying the the layers of socioeconomic and racial discrimination here. Fodder for discussion, indeed.

The following PBS News Hour video (Jan 2016) addresses the essential question, “What is the government’s responsibility when it comes to providing safe drinking water?”

You can download a curriculum guide to accompany this video by clicking here.

Exercise Your Visual Literacy Skills

Media literacy is key to health literacy. But what does media literacy look like in everyday life? Here is one simple yet elegant example of decoding symbols (logos) that we see nearly every day. The explanation underneath each logo is an excellent example of making explicit the intentional stylistic choices to convey meaning. It is a far cry from the conspiracy theory-saturated examples of “subliminal” advertising that were prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s. This infographic may inspire students to engage in their own graphic design (fine arts) in a more intentional, media-literate, way. Think beyond the curriculum boundaries and pair up with an Economics/Personal Finance teacher as part of a more strategic cross-curricular project. Add Photoshop and the creative possibilities are endless. (To coin a famous yet not-without-controvery slogan: “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby.”)