Manteno Elementary fifth graders to get sobering lesson about alcohol use

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Manteno Elementary School is one of hundreds of schools nationwide that will be holding a Reach Out Now Teach In to educate fifth grade students, parents and caregivers about the harmful effects of underage drinking.

Dr. Kay Pangle, Regional Superintendent of Education, is the guest presenter and will talk to students about the damaging effects of alcohol on growing children and how they can avoid pressures to start drinking. The lesson will take place at 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 27 in the Life Education Center mobile unit at Manteno Elementary School.

Reach Out Now is being sponsored by the Pledge for Life Partnership in collaboration with the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Scholastic, Inc. It is one of many activities being conducted by the Partnership during the National Alcohol Awareness Month Campaign in April.

Fifth grade teachers at schools in Kankakee and Iroquois counties also are being invited to participate in the teach-in during the week of April 26-30. The Reach Out Now curriculum focuses on new research that indicates that drinking during adolescence can cause irreparable brain damage and greatly increases the likelihood for developing adult alcoholism.
Scholastic, Inc. has provided a family resource guide detailing facts about alcohol and highlighting suggestions on how to talk about it to children. It is being distributed to the parents of all 5th grade students in Kankakee and Iroquois county schools. Those parents who do not receive a copy, should contact the Partnership office at 936-4606.

Most fifth graders in our community are not using alcohol, but it is a decision many will soon face,” warned Pangle. “More than one-third of fourth graders say they already have been pressured by their peers to drink. This event is an important step in helping our kids get a clear and consistent message, at home and at school, that underage drinking is dangerous, illegal and unacceptable.”

The Reach Out Now curriculum includes lessons and in-class activities focusing on increasing fifth graders' knowledge about alcohol and its effects on the developing child, ways to make healthy decisions about drinking, and alternative activities to underage drinking. Teachers are shown how to incorporate the materials into classroom curricula in English, social studies and science.

The take-home packet for students and their parents gives families concrete, health promoting activities that can help a child reject underage drinking. It provides six key actions parents can take to help children make wise decisions: keeping good lines of communication; getting involved in your children's lives; making and enforcing clear and consistent rules; serving as a positive role model; helping your children know how to choose friends wisely; and being aware of their activities.

Although most youngsters do not drink illegally, the numbers are high enough to make
underage drinking a serious safety and health concern, Pangle continued. “It really is critical that we talk with our children early because research shows that underage drinking increases rapidly as our children move through the grades.”

A survey of Kankakee and Iroquois County students confirms this. Conducted last year by the Partnership, it revealed that approximately 4 percent of 4th grade students in both counties reported they had used alcohol in the past year. Among 6th graders, use jumped to 16 percent — a 400 percent increase! Even more alarming was the fact that these rates doubled and tripled among 8th graders: Forty-eight percent of 8th grade students surveyed in Iroquois County said that they had consumed alcohol in the past year and 34 percent of 8th graders in Kankakee County reported the same.

“What many parents and teachers may not realize is that their disapproval of underage drinking has been identified as one of the key reasons children choose not to drink,” she added. “That’s why we have to make every effort to let them know where we stand.”

This is the second year of Reach Out Now. In 2002, materials were distributed to nearly 100,000 teachers and more than 3 million students nationwide. The materials were developed by SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) and Scholastic, Inc., and were based on research supported by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and CSAP.

The Pledge for Life Partnership was among only three sites in Illinois to participate. For more information, call the Partnership at 936-4606.

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A Pledge for Life Partnership Initiative
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Kankakee, IL 60901