“That’s just on the literacy angle. There are all kinds of things you can do to marry literacy with health. For example, you could suggest to folks from the AARP, who might be recruited by that organization to be storytellers to children in a mall, to ‘be sure that, sometime in your storytelling, you make it clear how important health and wellness is to a child.’
“I am convinced that one of the things we’ve missed in this country is educating preschool children to the fact that they can indeed take charge of their health. Although not a Roman Catholic, I happen to be one of those who believes the Jesuits when they say, ‘Give me a child until he’s five and I have him the rest of his life.’ I think if you take a toddler who’s old enough to brush his teeth and tell him that in addition to doing that he also should be eating a proper diet, he should be doing exercise and he should never take drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and so on, I think that you establish a kind of catechism that he may well forget, but he will remember enough of it to come back to it at a time when he might be in crisis.
“The thing that reinforces my belief about that is having worked the last four years with the Safe Kids Campaign on a national basis. I am so amazed at what these little kids do in keeping their parents alerted to what they are there for. Kids get in the car and they say ‘buckle up’, and they are only four. I’ve heard four-year-old kids ask their parents, ‘Are the batteries in the smoke alarm working?’ They are taught that in nursery school, and they come home and they ask their parents.”
— C. Everett Koop, M.D.