Recent research indicates that kids actually gain more weight during the summer than during the school year. So says Jordan Bingham, director of health initiatives for the Wisconsin Sports Development Corporation, sponsor of Madison's annual Fit Kids Challenge - a summer-long program designed to help children track their physical activity. "While a healthier lifestyle is hard to quantify, we do hear from parents every year that our program helps keep kids motivated to move in the summer and gives them a goal to work toward," Bingham says. That initiative concludes on Sept. 6, with the fifth annual Fun Run around the Capitol Square, ending at the Ironman Wisconsin finish line on Martin Luther King Boulevard. The run is open to all children, regardless of whether they participated in this year's challenge. The distance around the Square is one kilometer, but race organizers are adding a one-mile course for older kids. A post-run celebration will include free food, prizes and entertainment. On Sept. 21, the second annual Roo Run Run - a short "dash through the grass," complete with more freebies and an awards ceremony - will wrap up the Henry Vilas Zoo's popular benefit, the Zoo Run Run. Both events, which each drew approximately 300 kids last year, are free. More info: fitkidschallenge.com and vilaszoo.org.
In an age when many popular musicians are recording albums for children, including They Might Be Giants, Barenaked Ladies and Dan Zanes, it should come as little surprise that Jett Beres, bassist for the veteran acoustic pop band Sister Hazel, has penned a book for children. Starfish: A Bedtime Story (SeaTails LLC) is a 6-by-6-inch board book based on a groovy, laid-back Jimmy Buffett-style song of the same name from Sister Hazel's 1997 album ...Somewhere More Familiar. Co-written by Beres and Sister Hazel vocalist/guitarist Ken Block (who also shares an author credit), the song chronicles the loneliness Beres felt out on the road with his young band and an imaginary yet joyful encounter with an out-of-place starfish. The colorful book features beautiful, contemporary illustrations by Sean Kelley and obviously reads like song lyrics. Beres also makes a reference to "records" (not "CDs"), which provides a handy opportunity for Mom or Dad to introduce the LP to their kids.
Starfish also comes with a CD (not an LP!) featuring three versions of Sister Hazel's "Starfish" - a lullaby, a symphonic version and a classical guitar version. The disc runs about 18 minutes, which Beres says is the length of time it takes his two children to fall asleep. More info: starfishlullaby.com.