[xtart] SUNRISE, Fla. – Every year around this time, Rita Goldberg’s thoughts turn to pools and beaches, but not the kind of “fun-in-the-sun” visions that fill most people’s heads as the spring and summer break seasons roll in. Instead, the former competitive swimmer, children’s author, lifelong swimming educator and founder of a growing swim school franchise, turns her attention to alarming statistics showing rates of fatal drowning among African American children notably higher than other populations.
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the fatal drowning rate of African American children ages 5 to 14 is more than three times that of white children in the same age range. The CDC notes that factors such as the physical environment, access to swimming pools, and a combination of social and cultural issues, including wanting to learn how to swim and choosing recreational water-related activities, may contribute to the racial differences in drowning rates.
“The rate of drowning among African American is tragic, yet preventable,” said Goldberg, who noted that among the general population, nearly 40 percent of U.S. adults don’t know how to swim, and drowning is the leading cause of death among children under five years old. “Changing the statistics begins with changing the mindset of a fear of the water, and it starts with education.”
Among Goldberg’s many efforts to affect culture change about swimming among African Americans is her hardcover children’s book, “I Love to Swim” (Launch Pad Publishing), which portrays children of various ethnic backgrounds on a journey of gaining comfort in the water, starting in the womb, to the bathtub and finally to the joys of mastering the art of safe swimming in a regulation size public pool.
In addition, Goldberg encourages aggressive recruitment of African American students into her British Swim School classes and welcomes opportunities to speak to community groups about the issue. Founded in 1981, British Swim School has become renowned for teaching infants the most essential water survival skills. Goldberg has worked vigorously to develop and fine-tune her teaching methods, which has resulted in the ability to alleviate the silent danger of floating face down. With more than 3,000 students on a weekly basis, the company boasts 16 operating locations throughout Florida, Illinois and Maryland and is expected to open 15-20 additional franchise locations over the next several years.
“It is my ultimate goal to reduce the number of drowning cases among all populations, but to absolutely decrease the disparity between the African American community and others by providing students with a place where they can feel comfortable and overcome their resistance or fear of swimming,” Goldberg noted.
A 2010 study from USA Swimming reported that approximately 70 percent of African American children do know how to swim, compared to 58 percent of Latino children and 40 percent of Caucasian children not knowing how to swim. Yet another study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine reported that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent among children aged 1 to 4 years.
With seven specific development levels, British Swim School’s curriculum focuses on water survival skills first and swimming and stroke development second. Each student receives personalized attention to focus on the skills they need most. The passion to successfully instruct each student also trickles down in the training each instructor receives. Instructors are provided with thorough training to ensure lessons are taught in a consistent, professional, gentle and non-traumatic way.
For more than 30 years, British Swim School has been dedicated to teaching water survival to beginners of all age groups. The company currently operates 16 locations and launched a franchise program in October 2011 as part of its strategic national growth initiative. Based in, Sunrise, Florida, British Swim School uses a gradual, gentle and fun process to teach babies as young as three months old the most important water survival skill – the ability to float on their back. For more information about British Swim School and franchise opportunities, visit www.britishswimschool.com.
Fishman Public Relations