Will Sugar Drinks Eventually be Taxed?

I read an article in this Sunday’s Tribune entitled, Many are no longer sweet on soft drinks. I was intrigued by the title, but mostly its byline: Communities, hospitals and others coast to coast are considering bans or taxes to curb consumption and combat obesity.

That’s a bold move considering every American consumes roughly 150 pounds of sugar a year (according to Dr. Oz).  The article mainly talks about adding taxes to sodas or banning sugary drinks from vending machines in hospitals, parks, and libraries. New York City is even talking about banning super-sized drinks from restaurants, movie theaters, and sporting events.

This got me thinking: Shouldn’t schools also be included in this “push”? If some hospitals in Chicago can replace energy drinks and sodas with bottled water, why can’t we do that in our public schools? Don’t these soda companies make bottled water too? I know that schools get some kickback for having vending machines in their buildings.  But why can’t these machines be filled with water and low-sugar juices?

If this idea is bogus, what about educating parents and children as to how much sugar they are drinking? Some hospitals in Boston are putting nutrition labels on the fountain drinks that show how much sugar is about to be consumed.  When I taught a one-week unit on nutrition (in one of my business classes) my favorite website to show my students was Sugar Stacks. This site gives you a visual as to how much sugar you are consuming for popular foods (cookies, soda, veggies, etc.).

I found it interesting that other popular drinks weren’t mentioned in the article. Mainly: Major coffee brand’s iced coffees and “milkshakes”.  How hard would these companies be hit if there was a ban or tax on its delicious creations?

How do you feel about banning or taxing sugary drinks? Is it so bad that lawmakers have to get involved? Do we need better nutrition education at the primary level?   

 Image from: New Public Health

Word Wall

When I was in the classroom, I made it a point to list terms my students were studying on the board. These words stayed on the board for a few days or an entire week, depending on their complexity.

I didn’t put a lot up at once because I really wanted students to focus on each word. I wanted them to know that these words were not going to be used just once and then they would never see them again; these were important terms to know and to understand the concepts behind them.

In younger grades, many teachers use word walls to expose their students to the vocabulary words they will be learning about. I wanted to start doing something similar with Oster. Of course I am not expecting him to start working on his phonemic awareness skills just yet. I just want to expose him to word recognition.

I started Oster’s word wall with the letter “B” for the sole reason of his love for books, balls, and birds.  I purchased a poster-sized foam board and Velcro for this “wall”. I printed and laminated the three words along with its associated pictures and placed the Velcro on the back of each laminated piece and on the poster board.

Sometimes I prop it up against the wall or against a piece of furniture. Other times, Oster plays with it on the floor. He likes “ripping” the laminated pieces off and handing them to me. I talk about the photos and sound out the letters for him. I show him tangible objects in and outside of the house that he can touch (although, I won’t let him touch a real bird).

Although he tries so hard to put the laminated pieces back onto the board, he just can’t seem to line up the Velcro just yet.

Baby Brain Development

I recently read an article entitled, “Want Success in School? Start with Babies!” by Dr. J. Ronald Lally. It is available only in print form in KAPPA DELAT PI’s Record.  Since I cannot provide a direct link to the article, I would like to share some highlights of the author’s words.

By age 3, an infant’s brain is already at 85% of the size it will be once he/she reaches adulthood.  With that being said, it’s only natural for one to believe that important learning and social structures should be put into place for the first few years of a baby’s life.

The stages of a baby/infant are broken down into 4 periods:

Brain Cell Creation (conception through delivery)

Beginning as early as conception, babies could be seriously affected as to how they will achieve later in life.  What the mother eats during pregnancy, how much stress is put upon the mother, drugs, exercise, etc. all play a factor in the developing of a baby’s brain.

Bonding (birth to 9 months)

Of course we all understand what bonding with our child means to us as parents. It is a complex definition but to simplify it, one could say it is to meet all of the needs of a baby and provide unconditional love.  These first 9 months are crucial in learning about relationships and communication.

Supported Exploration (7 to 15 months)

This is the time in which infants become a little more independent and start doing things on their own (in short-time bursts).  They are comfortable doing these actions because of the trusted connections they have made and the assurance they have received in the previous stage.  There is so much observation taking place during this time that they are developing a sense of self.

Self in Relation to Others (15 to 30 months)

Infants begin to become more expressive with their language, social behavior is learned, imitation from caregivers takes place, and confidence building all fit into this stage.  They are learning how they “fit in” to their surroundings and society. At the age of 2, most skills that are needed to succeed in school (“emotional/social, learning assumptions, and character traits”) have already been formed.

Dr. Lally provides recommendations (for both parents and educators) on how to guide babies to be successful in school. He believes prenatal health-care should be accessible to ALL families.

Paid parental leave for the first 6 – 9 months is another recommendation from Dr. Lally, along with having professionals regularly visit the home for the first 18 months of the child’s life.

He suggests that American child-care facilities should pay their caregivers a rate comparable to what K-12 educators receive. These workers are underpaid and provide such important care to these infants during a crucial time in the children’s brain development.  Stronger regulations should also be put into place at these schools.

Lastly, he writes that services should be available to parents for help with their child’s development (emotional, language, motor, etc.).

Last month, Dr. Lally was interviewed about his article in this podcast.

How do you feel about Dr. Lally’s recommendations? Are they realistic?

Print Awareness

One type of early literacy skill you can help your infant develop is print awareness.  In a nutshell, your child has mastered this skill when he/she notices that print is everywhere: in books, periodicals, banners, signs, packaging, etc.  It also includes knowing how to handle a book and being aware that the print has meaning.

A helpful literacy website, Reading Rockets, lists guidelines for implementation that were written by The Texas Education Agency. These guidelines were developed to help parents and teachers infuse print awareness in the lives of children.

As I am always looking for new ideas, I would love to hear what you are doing to promote Print Awareness in your child’s life.