7 Ways to Turn Health Literacy Month Into a School-Wide Celebration

When a school is celebrating a sports championship, they often go big: rallies, trophies, and loud cheers all around.

During Health Literacy Month this October, it’s a good time to ask: What if we celebrated health literacy like we celebrate sports? What if the entire school and community applauded students for developing the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to be health-literate individuals?

As a middle school health and physical education teacher, I know first-hand that initiatives impacting the whole school and surrounding community can be powerful.  

Here are some suggestions for how you can elevate your school’s Health Literacy Month celebration.

1. Have Your Elevator Speech Ready

Communication is a big part of promoting Health Literacy Month. Be prepared to talk to parents, teachers, and administrators about why health literacy should be a focus for all students — not just the students in health class.

Being able to talk about a specific issue that’s affecting your community, like vaping or sexual harassment, can help make this more concrete. Identify the things young people in your community are struggling with, and then talk about how developing health skills can be part of the solution.

2. Find a Team

It is more effective — and more fun — to plan Health Literacy Month events with a supportive team. Look for people who are passionate about this topic and are willing to lend a hand when you are putting together school-wide events.

3. Make It Fun and Interactive

Improving health literacy helps everyone, so it’s important to try to engage the entire school and community. Consider creating a competition about a health-related habit, like a physical activity challenge.

Maybe you can incorporate some health-related trivia into the morning announcements. You could speak with student groups within your school to promote habits such as getting adequate sleep. You could even make a presentation to parents about a topic such as supporting youth mental health.

Health Literacy Month is also a great time to invite in partners from local organizations to speak about specific topics. They can provide a fresh perspective and a lot of expertise. Get creative and use your connections!

4. Find Funding

Of course, there are many ways to participate in Health Literacy Month that do not require funding. But if you need financial support to make something really pop, consider making a pitch to your Parent Teacher Association or to local education support groups. You could also try looking for local grants.

In addition, check out SHAPE America’s health. moves. minds.® FUNdraising program. It might be a great fit for your school.

5. Start Planning

Once you have talked to the people in charge, assembled your team, and secured any funding you need, it’s time to make a plan for how you will engage your audience. Each week could have a theme and activities based on that theme. As you consider what each week will look like, think about the skills students may need more time to practice.

If this is your first time planning Health Literacy Month, know that it’s okay to start small. Health Literacy Month happens every year, and your efforts can grow over time!

6. Use Your Tools

Don’t re-create the wheel. SHAPE America has a plethora of Health Literacy Month resources available. Be sure to check them out!

7. Advocate and Show Off

Personally, I’m so excited to see the amazing Health Literacy Month events happening throughout the country. Teachers come up with so many creative and inspiring ideas! I hope you’ll share what’s going on in your school on social media. It’s a great way to advocate and promote what you are doing to people around the country.

Teachers tend to be extremely modest, which I completely understand. But most people did not have a teacher like you. That’s why it’s critical that you advocate and promote all the wonderful things you do to share health literacy with the world.

Additional Resources

Adam Mullis

Adam Mullis, Ph.D., has a passion for teaching health and physical education. An advocate of the wonderful content, skills and life lessons learned in health education, physical education and sport, he specializes in shifting school culture toward health and wellness for all students. Adam has led schools to three national awards for the “Healthiest Schools in America.”