Partnership to kids: Get up and go

Published 9:11 pm Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Nancy Welch, director of the Chesapeake and Western Tidewater health districts and a Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community board member, reads to pre-K students in Michael Watson's class at Booker T. Washington Elementary School on Monday.

Nancy Welch kicked off her work shoes and donned pink bunny slippers on Monday morning.

She would never think of doing such a thing at one of her offices as the director of the Chesapeake and Western Tidewater health districts. But in a pre-K class at Booker T. Washington Elementary School, it was accepted and even admired by the 4- and 5-year-old students.

Welch visited the school’s two pre-K classes as part of the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community’s “Get Up and Go” reading program. The outreach program is visiting all of the pre-K classes in Suffolk Public Schools this spring.

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“Our mission is to improve the health of all citizens in Suffolk,” said Bobbie Chapman, a board member for Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community. “We don’t think the early years of a child is too early to begin teaching them the importance of living healthy and eating healthy.”

The program started last fall. Partnership board members visited 19 private, pre-K child care centers, such as those based out of churches or homes. More than 300 children were reached with the reading of the book “Get Up and Go,” which encourages exercise.

The books were donated to each center through the individual donations of board members, Chapman said.

This spring, with the endorsement of Suffolk Public Schools superintendent and Partnership board member Deran Whitney, readers are visiting each pre-K class in the public school system to conduct the program. Private school pre-K classes also will be visited this spring.

“It’s as much fun for the readers as it is for the children,” Chapman said. In addition to board members, readers this spring include members of the Sans Souci book club and friends of board members.

“They get all excited about fruits and vegetables,” Chapman said. “The message is to get up and go. Don’t sit in front of the television.”