Monday, June 23, 2014

Why not walk?

Going for a walk is our favorite activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and we walk 6 percent more on average than a decade ago. Walkable communities — where schools, shops and entertainment can be easily reached on foot — are a red-hot real estate trend.
The public clearly understands that walking is good for them and their families. A national surveycommissioned by Kaiser Permanente found that 94 percent of Americans believe walking is good for our health, 91 percent believe it helps us lose weight and 85 percent that it reduces depression. If more Americans adopted this easy habit, we could save as much as $100 billion a year in health care costs.
Americans will get even more encouragement to take a stroll this year when the U.S. Surgeon General’s office releases an official Call to Action on Walking and Walkability, which highlights the mounting medical evidence that walking is one of the best ways to prevent disease and stay healthy. Yet the CDC reports that 52 percent of all Americans still don’t meet the CDC’s recommended minimum for physical activity: 30 minutes a day five days a week for adults, and one hour a day for kids.
The public opinion survey sponsored by Kaiser Permanente (which powers the Every Body Walk! Collaborative) listed people’s most common reasons for not walking:
— Few places within walking distance of my home: 40 percent
— Don’t have time: 39 percent
— Don’t have the energy: 36 percent
— Lack of sidewalks or speeding traffic: 25 percent
— No one to walk with: 25 percent
— Crime in my neighborhood: 13 percent
How to talk about walking so others will listen 
This spring more than two dozen leaders of the emerging walking movement gathered in Washington, D.C., at a meeting sponsored by Every Body Walk!, to work on a compelling message to encourage more Americans to walk. Here’s a compilation of ideas to overcome these barriers and make walking more visibile:
— Wear gold shoe laces: The African-American women’s walking organization Girl Trek, outfits members with gold shoelaces for their walking shoes to reveal themselves as regular walkers. 
— Call on the power of art: Public art on the theme of walking serves as a reminder to take a stroll. Artists design crosswalks, trail signs and gateways to walking paths that capture people’s imaginations.
— Enlist high-profile local figures to schedule regular public walks. People will don their sneakers for the chance to walk with a public official, athlete, entertainer or physician.
— Plan a walk with friends and family. Suggest a walk first and then maybe a meal or drink or movie or round of cards
— Walk Every Wednesday: Around the country, people are organizing walks every Wednesday. (#WalkingWednesday on twitter). 
— Suggest a walking meeting: Energize that afternoon discussion by doing it on foot.  Do your next phone meeting standing up. 
— Organize a walking club: Like a book club, but with water bottles instead of novels.
— Turn your coffee break into a stroll: Recruit co-workers for a refreshing trot out on the sidewalk or around the campus.
— Issue a walking challenge: Try some friendly competition by seeing who’s the first to walk 100 miles. North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital sponsored a contest encouraging its employees to walk the distance from New York to Paris, with some winning a free trip to the French capital.
— Establish a Black Belt for walkers: Many of us are drawn to compete with ourselves.  Create awards for people hoofing it a half-hour for 365 days straight or striding the distance of the earth’s equator (24,901 miles).
— Post signs around town listing the walking times to popular destinations: Walk Raleigh, a fledgling group in Raleigh, N.C., hung up 27 handmade signs around downtown that became so popular the city posted their own official versions.
— Mark a definite walking route: A walk after dinner is an enduring custom in Mediterranean and Latin American countries. Italians call it a passeggiata. People generally follow the same route through the heart of town, making it a social occasion as much as exercise regimen.
— Tell everyone: “If they can walk in L.A., we can do it here.” Famous for auto-cracy, Los Angeles actually harbors many walkers and hosts the Big Parade, an “epic public walk” that covers 40 miles and 100 public stairways over two days accompanied by food, music and art. Every town could create its own walking parade or festival.
Jay Walljasper writes, speaks, edits and consults about how to improve community life. He is author of “The Great Neighborhood Book and All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons.” His website:

Kid Lit's Primary Color: White -- REPORT

Of 3,200 children’s books published last year, only 93 featured black characters—and the numbers weren’t great for Asians, American Indians, and Latinos either. What gives?
If you’re a parent of a child of color, finding relatable kids’ books can be something of a challenge. Just ask Lori Tharps, an African-American journalism professor and the mom of three bilingual, bicultural children. “I’m not trying to make my kids read about slaves all the time,” she says. “A black wizard story would be nice. Flat Stanley could be Asian or Latino. But they’re not there… at least it would be one less blond-haired, blue-eyed heroine or hero to worship.” A survey of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013—out of a total of 5,000—found that only 67 were by African-American authors, and only 93 titles centered on black characters. That’s the lowest number of black protagonists since 1994, when the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison began tracking that data. The numbers were similarly abysmal for children’s books by or about American Indians, Asians, and Latinos — proving that publishing, like the film and TV industry, has a long way to go when it comes to fostering and promoting diversity.
So why are bookshelves so whitewashed? For one thing, children’s books about diverse characters don’t sell (though there are exceptions, such as Octavia Spencer’s middle-grade mystery, Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit). Says one children’s-book executive, “If we thought there was a demand for more nonwhite characters, we would try to fill it.” Sales can “certainly impact visibility and output,” says Rosemary Brosnan, editorial director at HarperCollins Children’s Books. Award-winning Mexican-American writer Gary Soto knows this all too well: He had to end his 20-year career writing children’s books due to low sales. “I think many buyers think, ‘We already have a Gary Soto book in our library or classroom; we don’t need any more.’” Tharps, a former EW staffer, says, “Part of this problem could be solved if the great books that are out there that feature characters of color were given more promotional push by publishers and not shoved into the multicultural section.”
Another factor: Children’s book editors are predominantly white females and traditionally “publishing houses are run by white men,” explains Robin Adelson, executive director of the Children’s Book Council. “Hiring a diverse array of people would help reflect the different children we’re publishing for.” Afro-Latina author Veronica Chambers sees the ranks of older editors giving way to twentysomethings who often dismiss the absence of diverse authors with what she calls an “it is what it is” mentality. “If editors are not cultivating relationships with writers of different backgrounds, then it makes it difficult for writers in a vacuum to do something with commercial sensibility,” she says. “What the poor numbers say most graphically is that they really don’t care.”
But it can be tough to find authors of color, says Scholastic executive editor Andrea Davis Pinkney, who is African-American and has worked in the field for nearly 30 years. “It takes significant effort to find authors [of any race] who can tell great stories that will stand the test of time,” she says. Then there’s the challenge of finding books that children across all ethnicities actually want to read. “I’m the mother of two teenagers who inform me there needs to be more for African-American boys that’s fun and exciting,” Pinkney says. Tharps agrees, saying kids crave books that “feature characters doing exciting, interesting, brave, or smart things. It gets hard to find the series books, the comics, the budding romances that feature black, brown, and other faces.”
A campaign for books that reflect the rapidly shifting demographics of this country—where children of color will outnumber white children by 2019—has begun to gain traction. In a New York Times op-ed, best-selling children’s-book author Walter Dean Myers argued that “books transmit values…. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books?” His son, illustrator Christopher Myers, echoed his appeal, citing “the apartheid of children’s literature.” Even novelist Jennifer Weiner has championed the cause, asking book lovers on Twitter to join her in a campaign to promote nonwhite characters with the hashtag #colormyshelf. “Reading is everything,” says Tharps. “Books often give us our first glimpse of how other people experience the world. How do we expect white kids to understand the lives of Asian, Latino, African, and Indian kids if everything they read is about kids who look and sound like them? The way things stand now, this is a lose-lose situation for everyone.”
Locations of visitors to this page