Children speak out their health through annual bookmark contest

In the City of Richmond in British Columbia, Canada, public health nurses provide health information and referrals to school-aged children in 45 public and independent elementary schools. Twelve years ago, nurses introduced an annual children’s bookmark contest as a way to raise awareness and mindfulness about health topics.

Each year, a health-related theme is chosen and children are invited to design bookmarks related to the theme. Themes may be linked to an event, like “Go For the Gold! Make Healthy Choices” during the 2010 Winter Olympics hosted by Vancouver or to a hot topic, like “Feeling Good Being Me” inspired by an Action Schools initiative to promote positive body image.

Over 2,600 bookmarks are submitted each year and a panel of public health staff and community partners review all the bookmarks, choosing one winner for each grade from kindergarten through to grade 7. The winners receive a $75 gift card to a bookstore and 3,000 copies of each winning bookmark is professionally printed and distributed in the community. Winning bookmarks are also displayed at the Richmond Public Library along with a selection of theme related books, which are carefully chosen by librarians.

The theme of “Feeling Good Being Me” generated drawings of activities with family and friends, reading a book, doing art, being active, sharing with others and just hanging out. Librarians included mirrors in the display to encourage reflection on the theme.

In 2011, children were invited to focus their bookmark entries on “Every child has the right to…” A number of children’s rights themes emerged and the 2011 entries resulted in the creation of the Richmond Children’s Charter, which a group of children proudly presented to the Mayor and City Council of the City of Richmond for endorsement. The Charter is now being endorsed by organisations and groups across the city resulting in changes to policies, programs and practices.

In more recent years, themes have built on the rights embedded into the Children’s Charter. In 2014, the theme, “I’m a friend. Be a friend,” supported the right to choose friends. This year’s theme, “Keep my world clean and green!” supported the right to a clean environment.

The annual bookmark contest provides children with an opportunity to learn about health promotion in a more creative way. The contest also gives children a voice – helping parents, the community and professionals who work with children understand what children think and how they feel about health related topics.

Author: Helena van Gorkum – Davidson

Photo Credit: Photo by the winning children’s bookmarks

Author: Helen Davidson

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