Monthly Archives: October 2013

How and Why to Teach Nutritional Awareness to Children

“This morality fable preaches the importance of proper diet, as well as physical and moral fitness.”

Piggy is the epitome of an irresponsible glutton, spendthrift, and wastrel.  Her uncontrolled eating symbolizes her irresponsibility in dealing with life.  The moral message to children is to watch what they eat and not let themselves get out of shape like Piggy, who consumes vast quantities of butter, cakes, and other fat-laden foods to the point where her clothes no longer fit her and the only one attracted to her is the wolf who only cares about her as his next meal.

How and Why to Teach Nutritional Awareness to Children

teaching nutrition to children

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is a great resource for health and nutrition information.

America today suffers from “an epidemic of obesity.”  Nearly one in three children is severely overweight.  According to the Center for Disease Control:

  • Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
  • The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2010. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period.
  • In 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors.3 Obesity is defined as having excess body fat.

Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.

Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term effects on health and well-being.

healthy children playing

Immediate health effects:

  • Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
  • Obese adolescents are more likely to have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes.
  • Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.

Long-term health effects:

  • Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.6  One study showed that children who became obese as early as age 2 were more likely to be obese as adults.
  • Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.



Why Write this Tale?

I’ve received quite a few questions recently about why I wrote the book – what I hope it would do or mean. I could talk about it for ages, but instead I chose here to simply provide you with the forward I wrote from the book. Please do keep your questions comingexcerpt

A Review of Dr. Smith’s The Tale of Piggy Packfat

Woody Guthrie once said: “let me be known as the man who told you somethin’ you already know.” That jumped into my mind almost at once when I read Dr. Smith’s wonderfully whimsical morality fable in verse, The Tale of Piggy Packfat. It is a delightful little story that tells us things we’ve always known through the actions of persons we have already encountered, especially ones like Piggy Packfat herself. Dr. Smith enhances this by giving us a refresher course in folklore, reminding us of things we should already know, but about which we all could probably use a reminder.

illustration of dr. smith

Dr. Smith

This lesson is not pedantic; neither is the poem itself. We are reminded of the virtues of helping our fellows and the wickedness of unrestrained self-indulgence. The unsparing portrayal of the dreadful Piggy is tough enough for grown folks, yet not too harsh for kids. Our faith in decent concern for others is reaffirmed, as is our belief that, harsh as it is, Piggy’s comeuppance, when it comes, is righteous and proper.

The clever illustrations in this book are every bit as delicious as the text and most conducive to aiding the young reader’s comprehension. The sharp contrast between the other animals, presented as the proper souls they are, and the over-rouged Ms. Packfat in her supremely tacky red dress, are spot-on. Now, like the author, I’ll share with you something else you already know: I like this book! I’m certain you and your children will, too. It should be considered a “must read” for young readers ages four and older.

Zeke Johnson
Memphis, Tennessee

Zeke Johnson is a retired schoolteacher with the Memphis City Schools and an active musician and songwriter.

Welcome to the Tale of Piggy Packfat

This book is intended as a vocabulary-building tool for young readers.  Written in rhyming verse, it begins in simple words children can easily understand, but as it progresses adds bigger words that expand the readers’ language skills.  The author skillfully introduces the reader to new words such as “larder” for “pantry,” “swine” for “pig,” commercial terms “borrowing” and “repay,” “township” for the community, “omen” for “sign,” “distress” for “trouble,” and “carnivores” for wolves.  As the plot progresses, references are also made to other classics of children’s literature involving “good wolves,” such as in Kipling’s The Jungle Book and the ancient Roman myth of Romulus and Remus, which will hopefully direct the young readers to such other intellectually stimulating reads.

fb_coverThis morality tale in verse teaches children about the importance of thrift, cleanliness, honesty, and respect for one’s self, family members, neighbors, and others.

The book is set in a distant, magic land where the differences between animals and people are blurred, and animals can dwell as equals with humans.  It focuses on the Packfat Family, where Daddy goes to work each day, while Mother keeps house and attends to the children.  Families are supposed to work together for the common good.  But in this book selfish Piggy Packfat is only out for herself.  Thrift is encouraged and the family work together to save.  But their daughter Piggy only cares about herself.  She “borrows” from the family savings until there are none left, which causes the others to leave her in disgust.  She allows the once-handsome family cottage to go to ruin and annoys the neighbors with her wailings, until nobody has any sympathy for her. She stuffs herself with fattening foods and lets her body go to pot like she did her home. This makes her only attractive to the Wolf, who eventually comes to eat her.  Piggy Packfat sets a negative example of what children should not be, much like the little boy who cried “wolf.”

large_pigWhat sets this book apart from others is the impeccable verse and vivid, colorful illustrations which work together to stimulate the young readers’ imagination while telling an entertaining story.  Its moral message is quite clear:  work, save, plan, take care of yourself and your business, respect your loved ones and others, and live a rewarding life—or else you may open yourself up to folly, like Piggy does.