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Latina Lista: News from the Latino perspective > Columns & Features > Guest Voz > Learning how to swim shouldn’t be just a summer activity for Latino & all children

Learning how to swim shouldn’t be just a summer activity for Latino & all children

Devon North, a swimming instructor at the Southwest YMCA in Kenyon Boulevard in Denver, teaches a group of children how to use your arms to swim. A report from USA Swimming shows that 60% of Hispanic children can not swim with ease. A study commissioned in 2010 by the U.S Swimming Team and conducted by the University of Memphis looked at the differences between different minorities as it relates to swimming. Several large cities including Denver participated in the study that found that 58 percent of Hispanics have very low or no swimming ability.  These large percentages are in part related to parental fear of water, passed down through the generations and cost prohibited issues. Many of the YMCA's in Denver have tried to combat this issue by offering scholarships to nearly 50 percent of their students. Manuel Martinez/Viva Colorado

North Devon, un profesor de natacion en la YMCA del Suroeste en Kenyon Boulevard, en Denver, ensena a un grupo de ninos a usar sus brazos para nadar. Un informe de EE.UU. Natación muestra que el 60% de los niños hispanos no se puede nadar con facilidad. Un estudio encargado en 2010 por el Equipo de Natación de EE.UU. y realizado por la Universidad de Memphis observaron las diferencias entre las distintas minorías en lo que respecta a la natacion. Varias de las grandes ciudades como Denver participaron en el estudio que encontro que el 58 por ciento de los hispanos tienen la habilidad de nadar muy bajo o nulo. Estos altos porcentajes son, en parte relacionados con el miedo de los padres de agua, pasa de generación en generacion y el costo temas prohibidos. Muchos de los YMCA en Denver han tratado de combatir este problema ofreciendo becas a casi el 50 por ciento de sus estudiantes.

Marisa Treviño

In two weeks, school ends for my granddaughter. You may be thinking, that can’t be. It’s August and school is supposed to be starting, not ending. But my granddaughter, who just turned 21 months, has been enrolled in summer swimming classes and she’ll take her last plunge into the pool soon. Then my daughter and her husband will have to decide whether or not it’s worth to continue the half-hour, once-a-week-across-town classes for the next two months.

It should be a no-brainer. However, this school, one of the few that offers infant/toddler classes, is pricy. In this day and age of rising costs and stagnant wages, long-term value is often weighed against immediate return. Luckily, for my daughter, my husband and I believe in the long-term benefit of our nieta knowing how to swim. We started my daughter and her brother in YWCA swim classes when they were toddlers.

The peace of mind I had, as they got older, knowing that when they were invited to a swim party or to the lake by friends’ families they would know what to do if they got into deep water was invaluable. Unfortunately, too many parents, especially Latino and African American, don’t have that same peace of mind.

Whether it’s because of cost, access or fear/ignorance, too many parents don’t get their children swimming lessons. To some parents, pools and bodies of water are an extension of the playground. Just as children don’t need formal lessons to climb the monkey bars or pump themselves on a swing, these parents mistakenly believe that instinct will kick in when their child starts floundering in the water. Unfortunately, no — no matter how old they get.

According to researchers at Safe Kids Worldwide, drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1-4 years-old, “the second leading cause of death for children 5-14 years of age, and the third leading cause for children under 1 and older teens ages 15-17.”

Even if children, or adults, survive a drowning, near drowning can have serious consequences.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage. It can leave anyone with long-term disabilities like memory problems, learning disabilities, and in a worst case scenario, a vegetative state for the rest of their lives.

A study by the USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis found that 70 percent of African American and 60 percent of Latino children can’t swim. And though 40 percent of Caucasian children know how to swim compared to children of color, a startling CDC statistic reveals that Caucasian children, ages 1-2, have the highest pool drowning rates among all groups.

Sadly, Texas leads the nation in total and per capita pediatric drownings, according to the Fort Worth Drowning Prevention Coalition. More children have drowned so far this year in Texas than in all of 2015 according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Researchers published a paper in Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine in 2009 finding that among children, between the ages of 1-4, who had been enrolled in formal swimming lessons, their risk of drowning was reduced by 88 percent.

While swimming classes can be costly, there are year-round programs to help all income families get their children into classes. The USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash Initiative has delivered swim classes, via local partners, to more than 4 million children nationwide since 2007.

In addition to private swim schools, other class venues can be found at the local YMCA/YWCA, parks and recreation departments and even private swim instructors who will conduct classes in backyard pools.

Statistics say most children drown between the months of May and August. Not surprising since families are leaving summer fun behind and starting a new school year. Yet, swimming, like reading or math, is a life-long learning skill that requires more than a few months of lessons to know how to have fun in the water while staying safe.

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