Myrtle Teachable Moments

Content-Based Fiction

Reading Instruction for

Health Literacy and Character Education

"You can't think deeply about nothing." - Joseph W. Deem

Program Description

Myrtle Teachable Moments Health Literacy and Character Education Series is a comprehensive health curriculum for primary grade students. The teachable moments program uses research based instructional and early literacy strategies that encourage students to become engaged in learning about health topics. The program includes a set of books that address physical, social and emotional health topics. The program’s format also allows teachers to strengthen their students literacy skills while teaching the health content.

As we know teachers are faced with ever increasing demands on their time. As the demands of the core curricula increase, time spent on important subjects like health often decreases. Teachers must decide what to leave out as their day is filled with Math and Language Arts Instructional requirements. The Myrtle Teachable Moments Health Literacy and Character Education Series is built on research that supports not only learning the factual content of the health standards but also using health content to strengthen students’ reading skills. This nexus of health literacy and reading instruction encourages teachers to incorporate health instruction into their regular language arts blocks and therefore create the time to teach health.

A common criticism of primary grade reading instruction is the lack of exposure to expository textual content. As students matriculate through the grades the gap between their ability to read and understand nonliterary text and the requirements to glean information from written content widens. The Myrtle Teachable Moments Health Literacy and Character Education Series is designed to bridge the gap between expository and narrative text with stories rich in health content but also of high interest to students. The series is designed to help teachers teach children to read for factual information in the context of a narrative text.

Myrtle Teachable Moments Health Literacy and Character Education Series is designed to put health standards in a context that is familiar to students. The series is also designed to put health standards in a format that is readable and comprehensible to nearly all primary age students. Teachers who use the series report a good response to the books in their regular and special education classes. Health comes alive for the students through the books’ characters. Students relate to the characters and their real life experiences portrayed in the book. Through this medium students are more apt to retain the health-related content embedded in the books and understand how the content fits into the larger scheme of things.

Health is an important subject. Over 10% of preschoolers (age 2 to 5) and over 15% of 6 to 11 year olds are overweight putting them at risk for diabetes, heart disease, and premature death. Additionally, many students live in stressful environments and do not get a foundation that provides for coping skills. The characters in the Myrtle Teachable Moments series learns about and practice good health habits. The Myrtle characters also show concern about each other’s feelings and help each other when they have a problem. The characters are empathetic, responsible, make healthy decisions, and work together.

These are also characteristics of health productive citizens. The goal is to provide health education in a way that encourages the acquisition of these traits. The Myrtle Teachable Moments Health Literacy and Character Education Series introduces health facts and healthy behaviors within the context of stories. Children and adults alike enjoy stories and relate to them. Stories take seemingly unrelated pieces of information and join them into a composition that makes the individual facts easier to remember.

The Myrtle Teachable Moments Health Literacy and Character Education Series stories work well to convey information because they are consistent with research regarding how the brain works to store new information. A recent development in brain research is the discovery of a phenomenon called plasticity. Plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to strengthen existing connections between dendrites and axons of different neurons, essentially making the brain “stronger”. Information is stored in various locations in the brain. When one encounters new information, the brain looks for existing pathways the information will fit into, thereby, strengthening those connections. All students have personal experience with health issues. That prior knowledge, coupled with new related information, as portrayed in the Myrtle Teachable Moments series, strengthens those neural pathways or networks making it easier for students to “own” the new information. The topics are also meaningful to students. The best way to teach facts is to teach for meaning. The Myrtle characters connect school learning to our students’ real world.

I hope you and your students enjoy Myrtle and her friends!


About the Author

Myrtle Learns
PO Box 2767
Riverside, CA 92516
Phone (888) 843-7477

Fax (909) 778-9238

"I carry it (Myrtle Learns About Diabetes) in my backpack. If anyone wants to know about my diabetes, I let them read it."

Lalia S., 6th grader,  Fontana USD


* Personal responsibility
Healthy models
Kindness, acceptance, caring &    empathy
Disease prevention
Safe behaviors
Social skills


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