Chapter 44: Get Out the Bikes!

If it works at school, it will work at home!

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Behind the Ward Elementary School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, you can find a mobile classroom full of stationary bikes. Why? Because school officials there wanted to teach their students that they could “read everywhere.” And it worked! Kids at the school go to the bicycle reading lab whenever they have free time, grab a book and pedal away.

Exercise and reading. What a great combination of activities! Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, stretches the attention span, relieves stress and aids memory. All of these are vital components to successful learning.

Want to combine reading and exercise at home? Below are a few ways to do just that.

  • Get a stationary bike – If you can, start your own books-and-bikes program. Get a stationary bike and set it up where your child can use it anytime he likes. Find a place that’s not too near the TV, if you can. While exercise is great in and of itself, you really want this bike to be associated with books alone. A book stand that attaches to the handle bars is a fun addition, but not absolutely necessary. If a new bike doesn’t quite fit your budget, ask friends and family if they have one they want to sell or give away. Lots of people get exercise bikes with the best of intentions, but later find that they just don’t use them and would be relieved to see it find a new home.
  • Bounce it up – Miniature trampolines were all the rage a few years ago. While not too many adults still use them, they are still very attractive to children. There’s just something so irresistible about bouncing up and down. Trampolines combine all the other benefits of exercise and learning with the added challenge of eye-hand coordination. Set a basket of books next to the trampoline and make a new household rule: Want to bounce? Grab a book!
  • Rethink your child’s homework area – Consider replacing your child’s desk chair with something more dynamic, like a big medicine ball. A bouncy ball for a seat is a great way for kids to burn off nervous energy, making it easier for them to concentrate on reading. Some schools is even replacing old-style desks with standing ones equipped with “fidget bars” that the kids can rock back and forth with their feet. Teachers at these schools report that being able to move around actually increases the attention span of their students.
  • Take a walk – Going for a walk? Equip your child with headphones and let him listen to a “book on tape.” While listening to someone else read a story doesn’t seem like it’s directly related to learning to read, there really are benefits. Listening to stories helps kids with important reading concepts like voice and inflection. It helps them understand that stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. It also introduces them to how different characters interact to move the story toward its climax. Understanding these subtle concepts can be helpful when your child picks up a story to read on his own.


Upworthy, “This Simple Yet Brilliant Idea is Making Kids Smarter and Healthier,”