THE WOODS HUTCHINSON HEALTH SERIES
THE CHILD'S DAY
WOODS HUTCHINSON, A.M., M.D.
Sometime Professor of Anatomy, University of Iowa; Professor of Comparative Pathology and Methods of Science Teaching, University of Buffalo; Lecturer, London Medical Graduates' College and University of London; and State Health Officer of Oregon. Author of "Preventable Diseases," "Conquest of Consumption," "Instinct and Health," and "A Handbook of Health."
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO
COPYRIGHT, 1912, BY WOODS HUTCHINSON
"If youth only knew, if old age only could!" lamented the philosopher. What is the use, say some, of putting ideas about disease into children's heads and making them fussy about their health and anxious before their time?
Precisely because ideas about disease are far less hurtful than disease itself, and because the period for richest returns from sensible living is childhood—and the earlier the better.
It is abundantly worth while to teach a child how to protect his health and build up his strength; too many of us only begin to take thought of our health when it is too late to do us much good. Almost everything is possible in childhood. The heaviest life handicaps can be fed and played and trained out of existence in a child. Even the most rudimentary knowledge, the simplest and crudest of precautions, in childhood may make all the difference between misery and happiness, success and failure in life.
Our greatest asset for healthful living is that most of the unspoiled instincts, the primitive likes and dislikes, of the child point in the right direction. There is no need to tell children to eat, to play, to sleep, to swim; all that is needed is to point out why they like to do these things, where to stop, what risks to avoid. The simplest and most natural method of doing this has seemed to be that of a sketch of the usual course and activities of a Child's Day, with a running commentary of explanation, and such outlines of our bodily structure and needs as are required to make clear why such and such a course is advisable and such another inadvisable. The greatest problem has been how to reach and hold the interest of the child; and the lion's share of such success as may have been achieved in this regard is due to the cooeperation of my sister, Professor Mabel Hutchinson Douglas of Whittier College, California.
GOOD MORNING I. Waking Up II. A Good Start III. Bathing and Brushing
GOING TO SCHOOL I. Getting Ready II. An Early Romp III. Fresh Air—Why We Need It IV. Fresh Air—How We Breathe It
IN SCHOOL I. Bringing the Fresh Air In II. Hearing and Listening III. Seeing and Reading IV. A Drink of Water V. Little Cooks VI. Tasting and Smelling VII. Talking and Reciting VIII. Thinking and Answering
"ABSENT TO-DAY?" I. Keeping Well II. Some Foes to Fight III. Protecting Our Friends
WORK AND PLAY I. Growing Strong II. Accidents III. The City Beautiful
THE EVENING MEAL
A PLEASANT EVENING
GOOD NIGHT I. Getting Ready for Bed II. The Land of Nod
QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES
THE CHILD'S DAY
I. WAKING UP
If there is anything that we all enjoy, it is waking up on a bright spring morning and seeing the sunlight pouring into the room. You all know the poem beginning,—
"I remember, I remember The house where I was born; The little window where the sun Came peeping in at morn."
You are feeling fresh and rested and happy after your good night's sleep and you are eager to be up and out among the birds and the flowers.
You are perfectly right in being glad to say "Good morning" to the sun, for he is one of the best friends you have. Doesn't he make the flowers blossom, and the trees grow? And he makes the apples redden, too, and the wheat-ears fill out, and the potatoes grow under the ground, and the peas and beans and melons and strawberries and raspberries above it. All these things that feed you and keep you healthy are grown by the heat of the sun. So if it were not for the sunlight we should all starve to death.
While sunlight is pouring down from the sun to the earth, it is warming and cleaning the air, burning up any poisonous gases, or germs, that may be in it. By heating the air, it starts it to rising. If you will watch, you can see the air shimmering and rising from an open field on a broiling summer day, or wavering and rushing upward from a hot stove or an open register in winter. Hold a little feather fluff or blow a puff of flour above a hot stove, and it will go sailing up toward the ceiling. As the heated air rises, the cooler air around rushes in to fill the place that it has left, and the outdoor "drafts" are made that we call winds.
These winds keep the air moving about in all directions constantly, like water in a boiling pot, and in this way keep it fresh and pure and clean. If it were not for this, the air would become foul and damp and stagnant, like the water in a ditch or marshy pool. So the Sun God, as our ancestors in the Far East used to call him thousands of years ago, not only gives us our food to eat, but keeps the air fit for us to breathe.
In still another way the sun is one of our best friends; for his rays have the wonderful power, not only of causing plants that supply us with food—the Green Plants, as we call them—to grow and flourish, but at the same time of withering and killing certain plants that do us harm. These plants—the Colorless Plants, we may call them—are the molds, the fungi, and the bacteria, or germs. You know how a pair of boots put away in a dark, damp closet, or left down in the cellar, will become covered all over with a coating of gray mold. Mold grows rapidly in the dark. Just so, these other Colorless Plants, which include most of our disease germs, grow and flourish in the dark, and are killed by sunlight. That is why no house, or room, is fit to live in, into which the sunlight does not pour freely sometime during the day. The more sunlight you can bring into your bedrooms and your playrooms and your schoolrooms, except during the heat of the day in the summer time, the better they will be. The Italians have a very shrewd and true old proverb about houses and light: "Where the sunlight never comes, the doctor often does."
So you see that Nature is guiding you in the right direction when she makes you love and delight in the bright, warm, golden sunlight; for it is one of the very best friends that you have—indeed, you couldn't possibly live without it.
In one sense, in fact, though this may be a little harder for you to understand, you are sunlight yourselves; for the power in your muscles and nerves that makes you able to jump and dance and sing and laugh and breathe is the sunlight which you have eaten in bread and apples and potatoes, and which the plants had drunk in through their leaves in the long, sunny days of spring and summer.
So throw up your blinds and open your windows wide to the sunlight every morning; and let the sunlight pour in all day long, except only while you are reading or studying—when the dazzling light may hurt your eyes—and for six or seven of the hottest hours of the day in summer time. Perhaps your mothers will object that the sunlight will fade the carpets, or spoil the furniture; but it will put far more color into your faces than it will take out of the carpets. If you are given the choice of a bedroom, choose a room that faces south or southeast or southwest, never toward the north.
II. A GOOD START
When you are really awake and have had a good look to see what kind of morning it is, you will feel like yawning and stretching, and rubbing your eyes four or five times, before you jump out of bed; and it is a good plan to take plenty of time to do this, unless you are already late for breakfast or school. It starts your heart to beating and your lungs to breathing faster; and it limbers your muscles, so that you are ready for the harder work they must do as soon as you jump out of bed and begin to walk about and bathe and dress and run and play.
When you jump out of bed, throw back the covers and turn them over the foot of the bed, so that the air and the sunlight can get at every part of them and make them clean and fresh and sweet to cover you at night again. Though you may not know it, all night long, while you have been asleep, your skin has been at work cleaning and purifying your blood, pouring out gases and a watery vapor that we call perspiration, or sweat; and these impurities have been caught by the sheets and blankets. So after a bed has been slept in for four or five nights, if it has not been thrown well open in the morning, it begins to have a stuffy, foul, sourish smell. You can see from this why it is a bad thing to sleep with your head under the bedclothes, as people sometimes do, or even to pull the blankets up over your head, because you are frightened at something or are afraid that your ears will get cold. Your breath has poisonous gases in it, as well as your perspiration; and the two together make the air under the bedclothes very bad.
Now you are ready to wash and dress. But before you do this, it is a good thing to take off your nightdress, or turn it down to your waist and tie it there with the sleeves, and go through some good swinging and "windmill" movements with your arms and shoulders and back.
(1) Swing your arms round and round like the sails of a windmill; first both together, then one in one direction, and the other in the other.
(2) Hold your arms straight out in front of you, and swing them backward until the backs of your hands strike behind your back.
(3) Hold your arms straight out on each side, clench your fists, and then smartly bend your elbows so that you almost strike yourself on both shoulders, and repeat quickly twenty or thirty times.
(4) Swing your arms, out full length, across your chest five or ten times.
(5) Swing forward and down with your arms stretched out, until the tips of your fingers touch the floor.
(6) Set your feet a little apart, swing forward and downward again, until your hands swing back between your ankles.
When you come back from these down-swings, bend just as far back as you can without losing your balance, so that you put all the muscles along the front of your body on the stretch; and then swing down again between your ankles. This will help to tone up all your muscles, and limber all your joints, and set your blood to circulating well, and give you a good start for the day.
III. BATHING AND BRUSHING
Now you are ready to wash and dress. You can easily take off the gown, or garments, that you have worn during the night; but there is one coat that you cannot take off—one that is more important and useful and beautiful than all the rest of your clothes put together, no matter of how fine material they may be made, or what they have cost.
Do you remember the old Bible story about Joseph and his "coat of many colors"? Perhaps you've wished you had one just as nice. Now, the fact is, your coat is more beautiful even than Joseph's; and, as for its uses, it is the most wonderful coat ever made!
This coat of yours changes its color from time to time; sometimes it is pink, sometimes red, sometimes a soft milky white, and sometimes a dull dark blue, or purple. I wonder if you guess what it is. Sometimes it is dry and sometimes wet, sometimes it is hot and sometimes cold, sometimes rough and sometimes smoother than the softest silk—just run your hand gently over your cheek!
Now you have guessed my riddle. This "wonderful coat" is your skin, which covers you from top to toe. It fits more closely than any glove, and yet is so easy and comfortable that it never rubs or binds or hurts you in any way.
Will the wonderful coat wash? Yes, indeed, and look all the prettier. In fact, to keep it white and clear you must bathe often, not only your hands and face, but your whole body. Your skin is a strainer, you know. It is a "way out" for some of the gases and waste water from the blood. What will happen, then, if you don't wash your skin? The little holes, or pores, that the sweat comes through may become clogged. The strainer won't let the poison out, and so it will stay inside your body. Then, too, if you do not wash the skin, the little scales that are peeling off the outside coat will not be cleared away. You have noticed them, haven't you, sometime when you were pulling off black stockings? You found little white pieces, almost as fine as powder, clinging to the inside of the stockings. These little scales are always rubbing off from your skin.
So every morning it is good to splash the cool water all over yourself, if you can, as the birds do in the puddles. You don't need a bathtub for this, though of course it is much pleasanter and more convenient if you have one. Pour the water into a basin and splash it with your hands all over your face, neck, chest, and arms. Then rub your skin well with a rough towel. Next, place the basin on the floor; put your feet into it and dash the water as quickly as you can over your legs. Then take another good rub. But you must not do this unless you keep warm while you are doing it, and your skin must be pink when you have finished. If you are chilly after rubbing, you should use tepid, even very hot, water for your morning bath. In summer you can bathe all over easily; but in winter, unless your room is warm, it is enough to splash the upper half of your body. Once or twice a week you should take a good hot bath with soap and then sponge down in cool water. See how the birds enjoy their bath; and you will, too, if you once get into the habit of bathing regularly.
Now let us take a good look at this coat and see if we can find out what it is like.
The other day I saw some boys playing basketball. They wore short sleeves and short trousers. Four were Indians, and five were white boys, and one was a negro. The skin of the white boys seemed to shine, it looked so white; and the negro's shone in its blackness; but the Indian's looked a dull rich dusky brown.
Yes, you say, they belong to different races.
But what causes the difference in their color?
Little specks of coloring matter, or pigment, which lie in the outer layer of the skin. Even white skins contain a little pigment, they are not a pure white. A Chinaman's skin has a little more of this pigment, so that it looks yellow; an Indian's has still more; and a negro's has most of all, making him black.
Sunlight can increase the amount of pigment in the skin. The people who live in the torrid zone have much darker skins than those who live where the days are short and cold. You have noticed, yourself, that when you expose the skin of your face or arms to the hot sun, you become freckled, or tanned. This tanning, or browning, of the outer layer of the skin protects the more delicate coats of skin below from being scorched or injured by the strong light.
When you are playing and running with your schoolmates, you see that their faces grow very red, and even their hands. Why is this? Because the heart has been pumping hard and has sent the red blood out toward the skin. The red color shines through the outer part of the skin. The pigment in the Indian's skin, or the negro's, prevents the red blood underneath from shining through, as it does through yours.
The skin, you see, is made up of different layers. When you burn yourself, you can see a layer of skin stand out like a blister. It is white; but if the blister is broken, underneath you see the coat that is full of tiny blood vessels, so tiny and so close together that this whole coat looks red. The skin, like every other part of the body, is made up of tiny animal cells. In the outer coat they become quite flat like little scales and then wear off; and their places are taken by the newer cells that are growing from beneath. The skin grows from beneath, and bit by bit it sheds its old outer coat. This is how it keeps itself nice and new on the outside and "grows away" the marks of cuts and burns.
Now hold up your hand and look across it toward the light. What do you see? It looks fuzzy, doesn't it? Ever and ever so many tiny little hairs are on it. The other day a little boy asked me what made his skin look so rough? I looked, and saw that all the little hairs were standing on end, so that his skin looked like "goose-flesh." It was because he was cold. The muscles at the roots of the hairs had shortened, so that they pulled the hairs straight up and made the skin look rough.
What part of the body has a great deal of hair on it? The head, of course. Isn't it strange that you have such long hair on the top of your head and none at all on the soles of your feet or the palms of your hands? The hair on your head protects you from cold and rain and the hot sun; but hair on your palms, would only be in the way.
Now look at the ends of your fingers. There the skin has grown so hard that it forms nails. If you look at your toes, you will see that the same thing has happened there. These nails are little pink shells to protect the ends of your fingers and toes. You see what a wonderful coat it is that you are wearing.
Does the skin coat keep you warm? Yes, and not only that, but it keeps you cool, too. You have often seen little drops of water on your skin, when you were very hot. This sweat, or perspiration, as we call it, cools the body by making the skin moist. You know how cold it makes you to be wrapped in a wet sheet. Well, the skin cools you in just the same way, when it becomes wet with sweat. The sweat comes from the blood under the skin; so that, as we saw before, by letting this moisture pass through, the skin acts as a sieve to let out the waste from the blood.
Then, too, the skin covers and protects all the other parts. It is thin where it needs to be thin, so as not to interfere with quick movements, as on the eyelids and the lips; and thick where it needs to be thick, to stand wear and tear, as on the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands. I remember once taking a sliver of shingle out of the back of a little boy who had been sliding down a roof. I had to sharpen my knife and press and push and at last get a pair of scissors to cut out the sliver. It was just like cutting tough leather. But even if we do sometimes get cuts and burns and bruises, yet our skin coat protects us far more than we really think. It keeps out all sorts of poisons and the germs of blood-poisoning and such diseases. These enemies can attack us only through a scratch or cut in the skin, for that is the only way they can get into the blood. The skin is better than any manufactured coat, too, because, if it is torn or scratched, it can mend itself.
Does your skin ever talk to you? No, of course not; yet it tells you ever so many things. Shut your eyes and pick up a pencil. As you touch it, your skin tells you that it is round and smooth, and pointed at one end. You can feel the soft rubber on the other end, too. Is it wet? No. Is it hot? Of course not. Now place a book in the palm of your hand. Is it flat or round, light or heavy, rough or smooth? All these things your skin tells you through little nerve tips, which are scattered thickly all over it. Still another thing the skin does; if you touch anything sharp or hot, it says at once that it hurts. If your clothes are tight or uncomfortable, the skin soon lets you know. You see it is always on the lookout, always ready to tell you about the things around you and to warn you against the things that might hurt you. The fifth of your "Five Senses," the sense of touch, is in your skin.
There are some parts of your skin-coat that should have special care.
I hardly need tell you about washing your face carefully around your nose and in front of your ears. Sometimes I have seen a "high-water mark" right down the middle of the cheek or just under the jaws or chin.
Of course your mother has told you about washing your hands! You see, our hands touch so many dirty things, and handle so many things that other people's hands have touched, that we ought always to wash them before a meal for fear some of the dirt or germs on them may get into our mouths and cause disease.
And we really need to clean our nails as often as we wash our hands, for that little black rim under the nail is very dangerous. Dust and disease germs and dirt of all kinds find it a good place in which to hide. Trim your nails with a file, not a knife; and clean them with a dull cleaner, for a sharp-pointed one will scrape the nail and roughen it, or push the nail away from the skin of the finger underneath.
Trim and clean the edges of your nails carefully and thoroughly, but don't fuss much with the roots of them. That little fold of skin there may strike you as untidy, but it covers the soft growing part of the nail; and if you push it back with a nail-cleaner, it may cause the nail to crack and roughen or become inflamed and start a "hang nail" or "run around." If you push it back at all, do so only with the ball of your thumb or finger.
The edges of the nails should be trimmed in a curve to match the curve of the end of the finger. Of course you know that you should never bite your nails, not only because it is a bad habit and will bring a good deal of dirt into your mouth, but because you may bite, or tear down into, the tender growing part of the nail, sometimes called the quick; and then this part may become inflamed, and you will have a troublesome sore on the end of your finger.
Just as your nails are a part of your skin,—hardened from it and rooted in it,—so, too, are your teeth; and, like the rest of the skin, they should be kept thoroughly clean. Every morning and evening at least they should be carefully brushed. If you take good care of your first teeth and have them filled when they need it, you will probably have good permanent teeth, and you won't have to suffer with toothache.
The skin of your head, which grows such beautiful hair, and the hair itself, should be kept clean. There are two things needed for this.
First, the hair should be brushed and combed night and morning. The skin of your scalp is shedding tiny thin scales all day and all night, just as the rest of your skin is doing. Fortunately, your hair is growing from roots under the skin much in the same way as blades of grass grow from their roots; and, as it grows, it pushes up these scales from the surface of the scalp to where you can readily reach them with a good bristle brush. If they are not well brushed out, the dust and smoke from the air will mix with them, and the germs in the dust and smoke will breed in the mixture, and you will soon have "scurf" or dandruff on your head. So give at least fifteen or twenty strokes with the brush before you use the comb. It isn't necessary to brush or scrape the scalp, and a comb should be used only to part the hair or take out the tangles.
The second thing is to wash the hair and the scalp. Boys ought to wash their hair every week; and girls, every two weeks; and girls, especially, should be careful to dry their hair very thoroughly afterwards. You will notice after washing your hair that it feels dry and fluffy, and sometimes rather harsh. This is because the soap and hot water together have washed out of the hair its natural oil, or grease, which kept it bright and soft; and this is why it is better not to wash the hair with soap and hot water oftener than once a week or so. But it shouldn't be shirked when the time does come. Watch how hard your kitten works to keep her fur coat glossy, though it must be tiresome enough to lick, lick, lick.
Sometimes in cold weather your lips and knuckles crack and bleed. That is because the skin on those parts is so thin and so often stretched and bruised. If you will take a little pure olive oil or cold cream and rub it on your lips and hands, it will make the skin softer and not so likely to break.
Sometimes your feet tell you that they need better care. Perhaps your shoes are too tight, or too loose and rub your toes. Soon the skin becomes very hard in one spot, and you have a "corn" on your toe. You must be very, very careful how your shoes and stockings fit. If you should find a corn, or the beginning of one, you had better tell your mother about it, and let her see that your stockings are not too big, so that they wrinkle into folds and chafe, or that your shoes are mended, or that you have a larger pair. And then, if you wash your feet in cold water every day, and put some vaseline or sweet oil on the hard spot night or morning, the corn will probably go away.
Not only your shoes, but all of your clothing must be comfortable if your skin and the parts under it are to do their work well. Your clothes as well as your skin must be washed often, because the sweat, which is oily and greasy as well as watery, soaks into them, and the little white scales cling to them, and often dust and disease germs, too.
One winter a little boy came to my school. The other children told me they did not like to sit by him, his clothes had such an unpleasant smell. I talked to him about it, and what do you suppose he said! "Why, I can't bathe; the creek's too cold in winter." He was waiting till summer time to take a bath! No wonder the other children did not like to sit near him.
Yet, with all the bathing and rubbing and brushing, your skin won't be clean and beautiful and able to do all that it has to do, unless your stomach and heart and lungs are in good working order. So you must eat good food, sleep ten or twelve hours a day, and play out of doors a great deal, if you expect your skin to be healthy.
When you are washed, it doesn't take you long to dress; and before you have finished brushing your hair, you begin to feel as if you were ready for breakfast. You know just where the feeling is—an empty sensation near the pit of your stomach, and you don't have to look at the clock to know that it is breakfast time.
About this time something begins to smell very good downstairs; and down you go, two steps at a time, and out into the dining-room, or kitchen. You could do it with your eyes shut, just following your nose; and it is a pretty good guide to follow, too. If you will just go toward the things that smell good, and keep away from, or refuse to eat, those that smell bad, you will avoid a great many dangers, not only to your stomach, but to your general health; for a bad smell is one of Nature's "black marks," and you know what they are.
How nice and fresh and appetizing everything looks—the white cloth, the clean cups and saucers, and the shining spoons and forks. You are sure that a good breakfast is one of the best things in the world. You sit down and begin to eat, and everything tastes as good as it looks.
A good breakfast would be an egg, or a slice of bacon or ham, with a glass of milk,—or two, if you can drink another,—and two or three slices of bread, or toast, with plenty of butter; and then some cereal with plenty of cream and sugar, or some fruit, to finish with. A breakfast like this will give you just about the right amount of strength for the morning's work. Don't begin with a cereal or breakfast food; for this will spoil your appetite for your real breakfast. Cereal has very little nourishment in proportion to its bulk and the way it "fills you up." Bread or mush or potato alone is not enough. Any one of these gives you fuel, to be sure; but it gives you very little with which to build up your body. For that you must have milk or meat or eggs or fish.
It is most important that children should eat a good big breakfast. All the hundred-and-one things that you are going to do during the day—racing, jumping, shouting, studying—require strength to do; and that strength can be got only out of the power in your food, which is really, you remember, the sunlight stored up in it.
Sometimes, when you come down in the morning, especially if you haven't had the windows of your bedroom well open so as to get plenty of air during the night, you may feel that you are not very hungry for breakfast. Or perhaps, if you have risen late, or are in a great hurry to get to school in time, you just swallow a cup of coffee or tea, and a cracker or a little piece of bread, or a small saucer of cereal. This is a very bad thing to do, because coffee and tea, while they make you feel warm and comfortable inside, have very little "strength," or food value, in them, and simply warm you up and stir up your nerves without doing you any real good at all. A cracker or a single piece of bread or one large saucer of cereal has only about one fourth of the strength in it that you will need for playing or studying until noontime. So after you have started to school with a breakfast like this, about the middle of the morning you begin to feel tired and empty and cross, and wonder what is the matter with yourself.
Children of your age are growing so fast that they need plenty of good, wholesome food. They get so hungry that they want to be eating all the time. For "grown-ups" three times a day is enough; but for you children, whose bodies use up the food so fast, it is well to take also a piece of bread and butter, or two or three cookies, or a glass of milk with some crackers, in the middle of the morning and again about the middle of the afternoon. It will not hurt your appetite for dinner or supper, and you won't be wanting to "pick" at cake and candy and pickles all day long.
How does eating keep you alive and make you grow? Eating is somewhat like mending a fire. You put wood or coal on the fire, and it keeps burning and giving out heat; but if you do not put fresh fuel on, the fire soon goes out. Just so, putting food into your body feeds the "body fires" and keeps you warm, and at the same time makes you grow. Of course the "body fires" are not just like those you see burning in the stove: there are no flames. But there is burning going on, just the same.
The food you put into your body must be made soft and pulpy before it can burn in your muscles. Now you can guess what your teeth are for. They chop, crush, and grind the food; and the tongue rolls it over and over and mixes it with the moisture in your mouth, until it is almost like very thick soup. Then you make a little motion with your tongue and throat, and down it goes.
Where does it go? It is passed down a tube that we call the food tube. While I tell you about it, you can look at the picture and then try to draw it yourself.
The food goes quickly down the first part of the tube until it comes to a part much larger than the rest, which we call the stomach. Here it is churned about for a long time, and the meat you have eaten is melted, or dissolved. Then the food goes on into the next part of the tube, which has become narrow again. This lower part, which is about twenty-five feet long, is coiled up just below the waist, between the large bones that you can feel on each side of your body. These coils of the food tube, we call the bowels.
Winding all around the stomach and bowels are tiny branching pipes full of blood. They look somewhat like the creepers on ivy, or the tendrils on grapevines. These suck out the melted food from the bowels. They take what the body can use, and carry it away in the blood to all parts of the body. This is the fuel that keeps the "body fires" going. The tougher parts of the food, which the body cannot use, are carried down to the lower end of the bowels and pushed out by strong muscles.
This waste should be passed out from the body once every day and at the same time each day. In the morning after breakfast is perhaps the best time. If you do not get rid of it every day, it makes poisons, which go into your blood and soon make you very sick indeed. You must keep clean inside as well as outside.
GOING TO SCHOOL
I. GETTING READY
As soon as you have finished breakfast, and brushed your teeth and gone to the toilet, you are ready to run out of doors to play, if you have plenty of time, or, if not, to start for school.
Doesn't it seem a nuisance, in winter time, to have to put on a coat and overshoes and a cap or a hood, and sometimes leggings and mittens, too? But your mothers know what is best for you; and when you are young and growing fast, you have so much more surface in proportion to your weight than when you are grown up, that you lose heat from the blood in your skin very fast; and unless you are warmly dressed, you become chilled.
When you are chilled, you are using up, in merely trying to keep yourself warm, some of the energy that ought to be used for growing and for working. It has been found out by careful tests that children who are not warmly dressed, and particularly whose arms and legs are not warmly covered, do not grow so fast as they ought to, and more easily catch colds and other infections. So take time to put on your cap and your coat, if the weather is cold; and, if it is snowy, to button on leggings over your stockings; and then you can play as hard as you like, and run through the snow, and keep warm and rosy and comfortable.
Wool is one of the best stuffs for coats and dresses and stockings and gloves and caps, not only because it is warm, but also because it is lighter in weight than anything else you could wear that would be equally warm, and because it is porous; that is, it will let the air pass through it, and the perspiration from the body escape through it.
Don't wear any clothes so tight that you cannot run and jump and play and fling your arms and legs about freely, or so fine and stylish that you are afraid of getting them soiled by romping and tumbling.
It is best to wear fairly heavy, comfortable shoes with good thick soles; then you will not have to wear rubbers, except when it is actually pouring rain, or when there is melting snow or slush upon the ground. Felt, or buckskin, or heavy cloth makes very good "uppers" for children's shoes; but only leather makes good soles.
It is best not to wear rubbers too much, because the same waterproofness, which keeps the rain and the snow out, keeps the perspiration of your feet in, and is likely to make them damp. When they are damp, they are as easily chilled as if they had been wet through with rain or puddle water. Always take off your rubbers in the house or in school, because they are holding in not only the water of perspiration, but the poisons as well; and these will poison your entire blood, so that you soon have a headache and feel generally uncomfortable.
II. AN EARLY ROMP
The minute you are outside the door, the fresh morning air strikes your face, and you draw four or five big breaths, as if you would like to fill yourself as full as you could hold. If you have had a good night's sleep and a good breakfast, the very feel of the outdoor air will make you want to run and jump and shout and throw your arms about. This warms you up finely and gives you a good color; but if you keep it up long, you will notice that two things are happening: one, that you are breathing faster than you were before; the other, that your heart is beating harder and faster, so that you can almost feel it throbbing without putting your hand on your chest.
If you run too hard, or too far, you begin to be out of breath, and your heart thumps so hard that it almost hurts. What is your heart doing? It is pumping; it is trying to pump the blood fast out to your muscles to give them the strength to run with.
Of course you have seen a pump? Perhaps some of you have to pump water every day at home. You take the handle in your hands, lift it up, then press it down, and out pours the water through the spout; and, as you keep pumping, the water spurts out every time you press the handle down. It is hard work, and your arms are soon tired; but, as you cannot drink the water while it is down in the well, you must pump to bring it up where you can reach it.
Just so the heart pumps to keep the blood flowing round and round, through the muscles and all over the body. If you put your finger on your wrist, or on the side of your neck, you can feel a little throb, or pulse, for every spurt from your heart-pump; and that means for every heart-beat.
This heart-pump is made of muscle, and is about the size of your clenched fist. And just as you can squeeze water from a sponge or out of a bulb-syringe, by opening and shutting your hand around it, so the big heart muscle squeezes the blood out of the heart. It squeezes it out from one side of the heart; and then, when it lets go, the blood comes rushing in from the other side to fill the heart again. So the heart goes on squeezing out and sucking in the blood, all day and all night as long as we live.
When the blood comes to the muscles, it is a beautiful bright red; but after the muscles have taken what they want of it for food to burn, and warm you up, the "ashes" and the "smoke" go back into the blood and dirty its color from red to purple. Then the blood is carried to the lungs, where the fresh air you breathe in blows away the "smoke" and makes the blood red again.
The blood is pumped all over the body through tubes or pipes, called blood vessels. Those that carry the red blood out from the heart, we call arteries. They are deep down under the skin, and we cannot see them. The pipes that carry the purple blood from the muscles and other parts back to the heart again, we call veins; and some of these are so close to the surface that we can easily see them through the skin. Let your hand hang down a minute or two, then you can see the veins on the inside of your wrist, or on the back of your hand, if it is not too fat.
The muscles, the brain, the skin, and other parts of the body get liquid food from the blood by "sucking" it through the walls of the smallest of the blood vessels, for these walls are very thin. In the same way, when waste passes from the muscles or the skin into the blood, it, too, soaks through the thin walls of the tiniest blood tubes, called capillaries.
Your heart beats or throbs about seventy-five times in a minute when you are well. Look at the second hand of a watch, while you count the beats in your wrist or in your neck.
Does your heart ever become tired? Not while you keep well, unless you over-drive it by running or wrestling too hard. It can rest between the beats. But the heart muscle, like any other muscle, must have plenty of good red blood to feed on. You put food into the blood by eating good breakfasts and dinners. The more you run and jump and play, the more work the heart has to do and the stronger it grows; and a good morning romp before school will send the blood flowing so merrily round from top to toe that you will feel fresher and brighter all the day.
III. FRESH AIR—WHY WE NEED IT
The heart is not the only thing that goes faster and harder when you run about in the morning and play hard. You are breathing faster and deeper as well, as if there were something in the air outside that you needed in your body as much as food.
But, of course, you know that air is not good to eat. It has no strength in it, as food has; it isn't even a liquid like milk or coffee or tea. It is so thin and light that we call it a gas. Indeed, I suppose it is pretty hard for you to believe that air is a real thing at all. But all outdoors is full of the gas called air, and everything that seems to be empty, like a room or an empty box, is full of it.
You cannot even smell it, as you can that other gas which comes through pipes into our houses and burns at the gas jets; nor can you see it like the gas that comes out of a boiling kettle or from the whistle of a locomotive, and which we call steam. This is simply because air is so pure that it has no smell, and is so perfectly clear that we can see right through it. Almost the only way that we can recognize it is by feeling it when it is moving. But it is a very real thing for all that; and, like sunshine and food, is one of the most important things in the world for us.
What is it that air does in the body? We must need it very much, for we die quickly when we cannot get it: it takes us only about three minutes to suffocate, or choke to death, if we can't get it.
You remember that the blood is pumped out from the heart, all through the body. Everywhere it goes,—to the feet and the hands and the head,—it is carrying two things: food that it has sucked up from the food tube, and hundreds and hundreds of tiny red sponges called red corpuscles. These little sponges are full of air which they sucked up as the blood passed through the lungs. When we stop breathing,—that is, taking in air,—the little red sponges of course can't get any air to carry to the different parts of the body.
The body is made up of millions of tiny, tiny animals, called cells,—so tiny that they can be seen only under a microscope. Each of these cells must have food and air, just like any other animal. They eat the food the blood brings to them, and they take the air from the red corpuscles in the blood. With the air as a "draft," they burn up the waste scraps, as we burn scraps from the kitchen, in the back of the stove.
Suppose you light a candle and place it under a glass jar and watch what will happen. The flame will become weaker and weaker, and at last it will quite go out. You might think at first that the wind blew it out; but how could the wind get through or under the jar? No, the glass keeps all the outside air away from the flame; and that is just the reason why it does go out. Unless it has fresh air, it cannot burn. There is something—a gas—in the air that makes the flame burn, and when it has used up all this gas inside the glass, and can't get any more, it stops burning.
Now you will want to know what this gas in the air is. When we write about it, we use its nickname, the large capital letter O; but its whole name is Oxygen.
Just as the candle flame must have oxygen to keep it burning, so our cells must have oxygen to burn their impurities, or waste; and if they don't get the oxygen, and can't burn their impurities, they are poisoned by them and "go out," or die.
You can see the flame when the candle is burning, but you can't see the fires that burn in our bodies; there are no real flames at all. I know it is hard for you to believe that there can be any burning when our bodies are so wet and damp. But if you can't see it, you can easily feel it. Blow on your hand. How warm your breath is! Touch your hand to your cheek. It is quite warm, too. If you run or play hard, you sometimes become so hot that you want to take off your coat. That is because your fires are burning faster. The muscles are using more food and making more scraps to be burned. You breathe faster and faster till at last you are "out of breath" and feel as if you would smother or choke. The blood has hard work to bring oxygen enough to keep the fires going.
After the cells have burned the food scraps, they turn the "ashes" and "smoke" back into the blood-stream that is always flowing past them. If the cells did not do this, they would soon smother to death, just as you could not possibly live in a house without chimneys to carry off the smoke. And, of course, the blood wants to get rid of this waste just as quickly as possible.
Part of the waste in the body is liquid, like water, and can flow away through the blood pipes without needing to be burned. Some of this watery waste comes out through the skin and stands in beads or drops upon it. That is the part we call perspiration, or sweat. The rest of it goes in the blood to another strainer called the kidneys, passes through this as urine, and is carried away from the body as the waste water from the bathtub and the sink is carried away from a house.
For the "smoke" Mother Nature has still another beautiful plan. She sends the blood-stream flowing through the lungs, where it can send off its "smoke" and then get fresh air to carry to the cells in the muscles. When you breathe out, you are sending out the "smoke"; and when you breathe in, you are taking in fresh air.
Our body "smoke" is not brown or blue, like the smoke from a fire; it is a clear, odorless gas, called carbon dioxid. This is the same gas that makes the choke-damp of coal mines, which suffocates the miners if the mine is not well ventilated; and the same gas that sometimes gathers at the bottom of a well, making it dangerous for anyone to go down into the well to clean it. And this gas is poisonous in our bodies just as it is in the mine or the well.
You see, then, how important it is that we should live much of our lives in the clear pure air out of doors, and should bring the fresh air into our houses and schools and shops. "Fill up" with it all you can on your way to school, for the best of air indoors is never half so good as the free-blowing breezes outside.
IV. FRESH AIR—HOW WE BREATHE IT
When you are running and breathing hard, and even when you are sitting still and breathing quietly, air is going into your lungs and then coming out, going in and coming out, many times every minute. How does the air get in and out of the lungs? It will not run in of itself; for it is light and floats about, you know. Here, again, Mother Nature has planned it all out. She has made us an air bellows, or air pump, to suck it into the lungs. First we'll see what shape this pump is, and then how it works.
Stiff rings of bone called ribs run round your body, just like the hoops in an old hoop skirt, or like the metal rings round a barrel. Here is a picture of the bones of the chest. Perhaps your teacher can show you the skeleton of some animal. You will notice how the rings, or ribs, slant and are joined by hinges behind to the backbone and in front to the breastbone. It looks somewhat like a cage, doesn't it? Put your hands on the sides of your chest and you can feel your own ribs. Do they slant upward or downward?
This chest-cage is our breathing-machine. Before I tell you how it pumps, I want you to get a pair of bellows and see how they work. When you lift up the handle of the bellows, you make the bag of the bellows larger so that it sucks in air; and when you press the handle down again, the air puffs out through the nozzle.
Our air machine, though it is somewhat different from the bellows in shape, works in exactly the same way. You remember that you found that the ribs slant down and can be moved on hinges. Suppose, now, you place your hands against your ribs and feel the ribs lift as you draw in a long breath. The air will be sucked into your nose just as it was into the bellows when you raised the handle. By lifting your ribs, you have made the chest-cage larger; and the air has rushed into your nose, down your windpipe, and filled your lungs. If you breathe very deeply, you will find that your stomach, too, swells out. This shows that the muscular bottom of the cage, called the diaphragm, has been pulled down, making the cage larger still.
In this chest-cage are millions of tiny air bags that make up the lungs; and every time you take a breath, the air bags are puffed out with the fresh air that comes rushing in. By the time you let your ribs sink again, the air has given its oxygen to the blood, and the blood has poured its carbon-dioxid smoke into the air bags for you to breathe out. Nature, with the same bellows, pumps in the oxygen and pumps out the "smoke."
Now, we breathe into our lung-bellows whatever air happens to be around us. So we should take care that the air around us is fresh air.
Unless the air were kept in motion by the heat of the sun, causing breezes and winds, it would become stale and wouldn't do at all for our lung-bellows to use. The air we breathe must be kept moving and fresh if it is to make us feel bright and strong and happy. Mother Nature has given us miles upon miles and oceans upon oceans of this clear, fresh air to breathe—"all outdoors," in fact, as far as we can see around us and for miles above our heads. She sends the winds to move the air about and blow away the dust and dirt; and the sunshine, you remember, not only to warm the air and keep it moving, but to burn right through it and kill the poisons. But this brings us to something else.
You have learned that the air we breathe out would soon smother us, just as smoke would; and now we will see why. If you blow against the window pane on a cold day, the glass is no longer clear; and when you look at it closely, you see that it is covered with tiny drops of water. This is part of the breath you have just blown out. If the room is cold enough, you can see your breath in the air; that is, the steam in your breath becomes cold and appears as tiny water-drops. You have seen how in the same way, the steam, an inch or so from the spout of the teakettle, cools, making little water-drops that float in the air like clouds. Part of the breath, then, is water; but most of it is a gas, and you can't see it at all as it floats away into the air about you.
If your teacher has a glass of limewater, and will let you breathe into it through a tube, you will see that your breath soon makes the water look milky. This shows that the gas in your breath is not like the air about you; because air was all over the top of the limewater, yet did not change it at all. The milky look is caused by carbon dioxid, one of the poisons in your breath.
When some people come close to you, you want to turn away your head, because you do not like the smell of their breath. Even when one is quite well, the breath has a queer "mousey" odor, so that we never like to breathe the breath of another person. This disagreeable odor comes not only from the lungs but from the teeth.
We are always breathing out poisons into the air. One of these you can see in the milky limewater, and others you can smell when you happen to come close to anyone else.
If you blow on your fingers, you feel that your breath is much warmer than the air. If people are crowded together in rooms with doors and windows shut, their breath soon heats and poisons the air, until they begin to have headache, and to feel dull and drowsy and uncomfortable. If they should be shut in too long, without any opening to let in the fresh air, as in a prison cell, or in the hold of a ship during a storm, the air would become so poisonous as to make them ill, and would even suffocate them and kill them outright. Even the bees found this out thousands of years ago; and in their hives in hot weather they station lines of worker-bees, one just behind another from the door right down each of the main passages, whose business it is to do nothing but keep their wings whirring rapidly, so that they fan a steady current of fresh air into every part of the hive.
How does Mother Nature get rid of these poisons from our breath? Of course, you say, "She uses the wind and the sunshine." Yes, the winds can whisk up the poison and blow it away so fast, and the sunshine can burn up the horrid smell so quickly, that even the air above big cities, and in their streets, is quite clean enough for us to breathe, except where the people are very closely crowded together and very dirty. Mother Nature wants all of us to help in keeping the air clean. This we can do by keeping ourselves and our houses clean, and by being careful not to leave scraps of waste, or dirty things, in the streets and cars and parks and other public places. And you children ought to be very careful about your school yard and the halls and the classrooms, where you spend so much of your time.
I. BRINGING THE FRESH AIR IN
The only place where air is absolutely sure to be fresh is out of doors. There, as we have seen, the sun and the winds keep it so all the time. But, unluckily, we cannot spend all our time outdoors, either when we are little or after we have grown up. So we must try in every way that we can to bring the outdoors indoors—to get plenty of fresh air and light into the houses that we live in, especially the bedrooms we sleep in and the schoolrooms we study in when we are children, and the offices or shops we work in when we are grown up.
After you have your lungs and your blood well filled with air, either by walking briskly to school or by chasing one another about the school playground, you will suddenly hear the bell ring, and you march indoors and sit down at your desks. Here, of course, the air cannot blow about freely from every direction, because the walls and doors and windows are shutting you in on every side. The room, to be sure, is full of air; but if the doors and windows are shut, this air has no way of getting outside, nor can the fresh, pure air out of doors—even though it be moving quite fast, as a wind or a breeze—get inside.
We must let the fresh air come in and the stale air go out. This is one of the things that windows are for; and this is why they are hung upon pulleys and made to slide up and down easily. Of course, even when the windows are not open, they are letting in light, which, you remember, is a deadly enemy to germs and poisons.
Bright sunlight is best for purifying the air of a room, but even ordinary daylight has a good deal of germ-killing power. Therefore, a room that is well lighted is not only much pleasanter to live in, but much healthier, than one that is dull and gloomy. You see why we need plenty of windows and doors: we must let in the breezes and the sunshine, and let out the poisons and the dirt. Then, too, we must make the air in the building move about in order to keep it fresh; for if the air is not fresh, we soon grow tired and sleepy and have headaches. That is why your teacher keeps the windows open at the top a foot or so. You can easily see that when there are twenty or thirty of you breathing out poisons, and each one of you needing about four bushels of fresh air every minute, the old air ought to be going out and the fresh air coming in all the time.
That is also why your teacher gives you a recess, so that you can run out of doors and get some fresh air. Then she can throw open all the windows and doors and have the air in the room clean and fresh when you come back again. So when recess comes, don't hang about in the hallways or on the stairs or in the basement, but run right out of doors into the playground and shout and throw your arms about and run races to fill your lungs full of fresh, sweet air and stretch all your muscles, after the confinement and sitting still. Don't saunter about and whisper secrets or tell stories, but get up some lively game that doesn't take long to play, such as tag or steal-sticks or soak-ball, or duck-on-a-rock or skipping or hopscotch. These will blow all the "smoke" out of your lungs and send the hot blood flying all over your body and make you as "fresh as a daisy" for your next lesson.
When you come back into the schoolroom after recess, the air will seem quite fresh and pure; but unless you keep the windows open, it will not be long before your head begins to be hot, and your eyes heavy, and you feel like yawning and stretching, and begin to wonder why the lessons are so long and tiresome. Then, if your teacher will throw open all the windows and have you stand up, or, better still, march around the room singing or go through some drill or calisthenic exercises, you will soon feel quite fresh and rested again.
In the mild weather of the spring or early fall, all you need to do to keep the air fresh in the schoolroom is to keep the windows well open at the top. But in the winter, the air outdoors is so cold that it has to be heated before it is brought in; and this, in any modern and properly built schoolhouse, is usually arranged for. The fresh air is drawn in through an opening in the basement and is either heated, so that it rises, or is blown by fans all over the building. This sort of fresh air, however, is never quite so good as that which comes directly from outdoors; so it is generally best to keep at least two or three windows in each room opened at the top as well, and never to depend entirely upon the air that comes through the heating system.
Sometimes this may mean a little draft, or current of uncomfortably cool air, for one or two of you who sit nearest the windows; but your teacher will always allow you to change your seat if this proves very unpleasant. If you have plenty of warmth in the room you sit in, unless the air outside is very cold, this "breeze" won't do you any harm at all; on the contrary, it will be good for you. Instead of catching cold from a draft like this, it is from foul, stuffy, poisonous air, loaded with other people's breaths and the germs contained in them, that you catch cold.
In fact, staying indoors is usually the reason why people are sick. They don't go out into the clean fresh air for fear they'll be too cold! It seems a pity we can't just live out of doors all the time. Perhaps we shall some day; for doctors are finding out that fresh outdoor air and good food are the very best medicines known, and the only "Sure Cures." They are pleasant to take, too. Many cities are providing outdoor schools for children who have weak lungs or are not strong in other ways. Perhaps some day all school children will be allowed to study in the open air at least part of every school day.
II. HEARING AND LISTENING
Now you are all ready to go to work. What are you going to work with? Books? pencils? paper? Yes, but you have something better than those and all ready for use. It is that little kit of tools that are sometimes called our "Five Senses." You remember that we have already talked about one of them, the sense of touch in the skin. Now which one are you going to use first this morning? If your teacher talks to you, I hope it will be the one we call the sense of hearing. Suppose we try to find out something about this sense of hearing, and begin with a little experiment.
Take a piece of cork in your hand and lift it up high and then let it drop into a large basin or tub of water. What happens? The cork strikes and then goes bob-bob-bobbing up and down on its own waves. Now watch the little waves all around the cork. Where do they stop? They don't stop until they touch the edge of the pan; and no matter how big the pan is, the waves go on and on until they reach the edge.
We can see these waves of water, and so we easily believe that they are there. Now there are, just as truly, waves of air all around us. We cannot see the waves, because they are too small and roll too quickly. But some of these, when they roll against our ears, make us hear. They make what we call sound. You have heard about sending messages through the air, without telegraph wires. Wireless messages are often sent to ships out in the middle of the ocean. This is done by starting tiny electric waves, which travel through the air much as the waves of water are traveling across the ocean beneath. Of course there must be a machine, called a receiver, to catch the waves and "hear" the message.
Mother Nature has given each of you two very delicate little receivers to catch the sound waves and carry them to your brain. You know what they are—you can name them. But how are these wonderful little machines made?
You have never seen the whole of your ear. The part on the outside of the head, of course, you can easily see and feel. Sometimes you notice a deaf person put his hand behind his ear and press it forward so as to catch the sound waves better. These waves roll in at the little hole you can see, and travel along a short passage till they come to a round drum, a piece of very thin skin stretched tight like a drumhead.
Have you ever beaten a drum with a stick? You felt the drumhead quiver under the blow, did you not? Well, when the sound waves beat against the drum in the ear, it quivers and starts little waves inside the ear. Each little wave in turn beats against a little bone called the hammer; the hammer beats against another called the anvil, and this against a third called the stirrup; and the quiver of the stirrup is passed on to a little window, opening into a little room with a spiral key-board; and from this, the wave travels along a nerve to the brain. As the waves reach the brain, the brain hears. In this way we hear all sorts of sounds, from the tick of a watch to the whistle of a train.
There is a sensible old saying, "Never put anything smaller than your elbow into the inner part of your ear." Now, of course, you can't put your elbow into such a tiny hole! So the old saying means, never put anything in. The eardrum is very thin and can easily be broken. Even a slap on the ear, or a loud sound too close to it, might crack and spoil the drum and make one deaf.
The outside ear needs careful washing; there are so many little creases that gather dirt and dust. The deep crease behind the ear, too, will become sore if it is not kept clean.
Besides cleaning your ears, you must train them to listen. Some boys and girls hear just a word or two of what is said, and then guess at the rest and think they are listening, or else ask to have it repeated. We should try to hear exactly what is said; and if we listen carefully, it will soon be much easier to understand at once.
Of course, if you really cannot hear, the doctor can tell you what is the matter, and usually can help you very much. Sometimes people become deaf simply because the throat is swollen. Indeed, most deafness comes from colds and catarrhs and other inflammations of the nose and throat. These spread to the ear through a little tube that runs up to the drum cavity from the back of the throat. Sometimes, when you are blowing your nose, you may feel your ear go "pop"; and that means that you have blown air up into the ear through this little tube. Be sure to see a doctor if you don't hear well; and be sure, too, to tell your teacher, so that she may know why it is you do not hear what she says, and ask her to give you a seat near her, so that you can hear.
Then, too, you should learn to notice outdoor sounds—the songs of the birds, the noises that the animals make, the wind in the trees, and the patter of the rain. The old Norsemen have a story that their god Heimdall had such keen ears that he could hear the grass growing in the meadow and the wool growing on the backs of the sheep! Your ears can never be so keen as that; but there are many, many happy outdoor sounds that you should listen for. They will help to make you happy, too.
Careful listening may sometime save your life. You can hear the car or the train coming, and you can learn to tell from which direction a sound comes. You can learn to tell one sound from another in the midst of many sounds. In more ways than you can think of now, this habit of listening will protect you from danger.
The Germans have a proverb, "Hear much and say little." What does it mean?
III. SEEING AND READING
You can learn a great deal through your ears, but think how much more you can learn through your eyes. Just count over all the things that you have had to get your eyes to tell you to-day, and then shut your eyes for a minute and think what it would mean never to be able to see. Don't you think you ought to take very good care of your eyes? You are going to keep them very busy all your life, and they deserve the very best care you can give them.
Just as soon as lessons begin, you get out your books; and a good share of the day in school you have a book before you, reading it or studying it or copying from it. It makes a great difference to your eyes how you hold the book and how the light falls. In reading, you should always hold your book so that the light falls upon the page from behind you, or from over one of your shoulders. In this way, the brightest light that comes into your eyes is not from the window, but from the page of your book.
If the light comes from a window in front of you, or if you sit in the evening with your face toward the lamp when you read, the light coming straight from the lamp or the window, as well as the light coming up from the pages of the book, pours into your eyes; and this dazzles and confuses your eyes, so that you can't see plainly and comfortably and are very likely after a while to find that your head aches. At home, of course, you can seat yourself with your back to the light when you read; and usually at school your seats are so arranged that the light falls from behind you or from one side. If not, by turning a little in your seat, you can get the light from over your shoulder.
Notice how the light falls upon the blackboard. When the light comes from the windows behind you, or from one side, you can see what is written there quite plainly. But if the blackboard happens to be between two windows, and especially if this is the lightest side of the room, you will find that the light dazzles you so that you cannot see the writing clearly.
You must have noticed, too, that if, after you have been reading from the blackboard you look down again suddenly to the page of your book, for an instant you will not see the letters plainly. Then, almost before you have time to notice it, you feel a little change take place inside your eyes, and the print upon the page of your book becomes quite plain. This is because your eye has to change the shape of one of the parts inside it, called the lens, before you can see clearly the things that are near you. This change, which is called accommodation, is made by a little muscle of the eye; and if you keep your eyes working at close work, like reading or writing or fancy-work, too long at a time, or if your eyes need glasses to make them see clearly, and you haven't them on, this little muscle becomes tired. Then the print of your book, or your writing, or the stitches you have taken begin to blur before your eyes. Your eyes begin to feel tired, and your head begins to ache. This is what we call eye strain.
Sometimes this eye strain upsets your appetite or your digestion and makes you sleepless and worried. The trouble may be caused by your own carelessness: you may have been reading too long, or in a poor light, or with the light shining right in your face instead of coming over your shoulder. But sometimes it is caused by the fact that your eyes are not just the right shape; and then the only way to relieve it is to have proper glasses, or spectacles, fitted, which will make up for this too flat or too round shape, or too large or too small size, of your eyes.
If you cannot see clearly what is written on the blackboard when the light falls upon it from behind you, or above; or if, in a good light, you cannot read the words in your book quite easily, without straining at all, when you hold the book either at arm's length or a foot from your face; or if your head aches or your eyes begin to feel tired or uncomfortable, or the letters begin to blur, after you have read steadily—say, for half an hour,—it is a pretty sure sign that there is some trouble with your eyes. Then you had better have them examined at once by your family doctor or by the school doctor. In many schools now there are doctors to test the children's eyes, and ears, too, so that each child may have a chance to see and hear everything that the other children can see and hear.
Not very many years ago people thought that glasses were only for old people, but now we know that many children's eyes need glasses, too. I knew a little girl whose sight was so poor that when she was standing and looked down at the grass, she couldn't see the green blades. She thought that the grass looked like a green blur to everyone, just as it did to her; and so she never said anything about it. She was twelve or thirteen years old before she found out that she couldn't see clearly. Of course, trying hard to see things gave her a headache and made her tired and cross. So some one took her to a doctor, and he saw at once what was the matter and fitted her with glasses. Soon she was quite well and strong; and how glad she was to see the leaves and a hundred other things she had not seen before!
Here we have a picture of the eyeball, as we call it. The little bands fastened to it are the bands of muscle; and as soon as I say muscle you know what they are for—to move the eyeball about, up and down and from side to side. There are muscles outside the eye as well as inside. Coming out from the back of the eyeball is a pearly white cord quite different from the muscle bands. This is what we call a nerve. This nerve in your eye carries to your brain, or thinking machine, picture-messages of whatever you look at.
The nerve in your eye gets messages of light much as the nerve deep in your ear gets its messages of sound—from tiny waves in the air. The light waves are smaller and faster even than the sound waves, and the eye nerve is the only nerve that can get pictures of them. You know that, for wireless messages, the receiving machines are not all alike and cannot all take the same messages, if the messages are sent with different sorts of electric waves; and neither can our receiving machines. Some get messages of sight, and some of sound, and some of touch, or taste, or smell.
Now shut your eyes as quickly as you can. How long did it take you? A minute? No, not a quarter of a second. It is about the quickest thing you can think of—"the twinkling of an eye." You shut your eyes "quick as a wink" whenever anything seems likely to fly or splash into them, and this is what the eyelids are for. If anything gets into the eye before the lids can shut, the eye "waters," and tears pour out of it. These are made by a gland-sponge up under the upper lid, so as to wash any dust or sand or other harmful speck out of the eye before it can hurt the sensitive eyeball.
Now look at some one's eyeball. It is like the picture, isn't it?—bright white around the edge and then a ring of color, brown or blue or gray; and inside the color-ring, or iris, a little round black hole that we call the pupil. Watch the little hole change as you turn the face toward the window. It becomes ever so much smaller. Now turn the face away from the window, back again into the shadow. How did the pupil change this time?
The iris, or color-ring, acts like a curtain, like the ring-shutter of a camera, and closes up the hole, or pupil, when the light is too bright and would dazzle or burn the inside of the eye; but when the light is dim, the iris opens again, so as to let in light enough with which to see. Look at the little window in your kitten's eyes. It is not the same shape as yours; but when you carry her to the light, you see how the iris closes in and leaves just a little black slit or line.
You remember the blind children? Isn't it wonderful how they can play games and study, too, even though they are blind! They have to make their senses of touch and hearing tell them many things that you learn through your sense of sight. Many of these children need not have been blind, if the nurse who first took care of them when they were born had known enough to wash their eyes properly, not with soap and water, of course, but with just one or two drops of a kind of medicine—an antiseptic, as we call it—that makes the eye perfectly clean.
But you children who have good eyes that can see, do you really see things when you look at them? You can train your eyes just as you can train your ears. You can teach them to read quickly down a page, and to find things in pictures, and, better still, to see things out of doors, in the garden and the woods and on the seashore. We hear a great deal about "sharp eyes," but most of us see very little of all we might see. Our eyes are on the lookout, too, to protect us from dangers that may come; with our skin and nose and ears, they are constantly on the watch; so the better we see the safer we are.
Even if your eyes are perfect now, you will need to take good care of them to keep them strong. Don't let any story, no matter how interesting it is, tempt you to read in a dim light or a light that is too strong. And if you can't see the blackboard easily, or can't read big print, like the school calendar, across the room, tell your mother or your teacher, so that she can ask the doctor to find out what the matter is.
IV. A DRINK OF WATER
It is astonishing what thirsty work studying is! Scarcely is the second recitation over before your throat begins to feel dry, and up goes your hand—"May I get a drink?"
If anyone even says the word "water," it makes you thirsty. It is so good that just the thought of it makes you want some. I should like you to notice how much water you drink every day. Perhaps a glass in the morning when you get up, and one at night before you go to bed, and three or four in between.
Why do we need so much water? Well, how much do you weigh? Perhaps you will find it hard to believe, but more than half of that weight is water; and because we are always giving off water from the skin and from the body, we need plenty more to take its place.
No living thing can grow without water. Take a bean, for instance, and put it in an empty glass on the window sill; and even if the sun shines full upon it, nothing will happen, except that after a few days it will shrivel and dry up. But fill the glass with water, and in a few hours the bean will begin to swell; and in a few days it will burst, and a little shoot will grow out of one end of it and a tiny root at the other. The water and the warmth together have made it sprout and grow.
Children at school and people on trains should have their own private cups, for serious diseases may be caught from the mouths of other people. You can get a metal pocket folding cup for ten or fifteen cents, or paper ones for a few cents a dozen. If you don't have your own cup, I hope you will get one and carry it. Here is a pattern for a paper cup that you can easily make for yourselves. Try it and see. When you have once learned how, you can make it very quickly and have a fresh cup every time you want one; but of course you should be sure first that the paper itself is clean.
If you drink milk, this takes the place of some of the water and gives you food as well. It is both drink and food; and a very good food for children it is, too. You know, babies can live on it because it has everything in it to make them grow.
Do you know why it is that people are so careful nowadays about having milk and drinking-water very clean? It is because they have found that the tiny plants, called germs, that make people sick are often carried about in these drinks. A disease called typhoid fever is carried in this way.
Fifty years ago, cities and towns used to be very careless about where they got their water supply, and would often take it out of streams into which other cities emptied their sewage. Now, however, they are much more particular; and the health officers, or Boards of Health, are insisting that public water supply, such as is brought into our houses in pipes, shall be taken either from some spring or deep-flowing well, or from a stream or lake up in the hills, into which no drainage from houses or farmyards, and no dirty water from factories, empties.
We are still, however, far from being as careful as we should be about this; and I am sorry to say that America has had more deaths from typhoid fever than any other civilized country. Germany, which, of all countries in the world, is the most particular about keeping its water supply pure, has the fewest deaths from this cause, in proportion to its population—scarcely one fifth as many as we have.
Therefore, by taking proper care, it would be quite possible to prevent at least two thirds of our nearly 400,000 cases of typhoid fever and 35,000 deaths from typhoid, every year.
It is not only cities and towns that ought to be careful of their water supply. In fact, now, out on the farms and in the healthy country districts, the death rate from typhoid fever has actually become higher than it is in our large cities. The main cause of this is the custom of digging the well in such a place that the waste water thrown out from the house, or the drainage from the barnyard or the pigpen or the chicken-house may wash into it, soaking down through the porous soil. Far more typhoid fever now is spread by means of infected well water than by any other means.
Most dangerous of all is the leakage from the privy vault; as, by this means, the germs of typhoid fever and other diseases that affect the food tube and digestion may drain through the soil till they reach the drinking water in the well. These dangers can be avoided either by having the well dug at some distance from the house and in higher ground, or by having the drainage from the house, barns, and out-buildings piped and carried to a safe distance from the well.
Fortunately, there are only a few kinds of germs that make us sick. Most germs are helping us all the time; we could not live without them. Some of them make our butter taste good, and others make our crops grow, and others eat up the dirt that would make us sick. But since disease germs are so tiny that we cannot possibly see them with the naked eye, we must know where the water and milk that we use come from, and whether or not they are perfectly clean. Boiling the water will kill these germs and make the water pure. It is better not to boil milk if it can be had from a dairy where the stable and the cows and the milkmen and the pails and bottles are quite clean.
The fruits and fruit juices—lemon and orange and raspberry and lime and grape—give nice wholesome drinks. Home-made juices are much better than those you buy; you can be sure that they are pure and really made from fruit. And just here I want to caution you against buying "pink lemonade" or soda water or any other drink of that sort from the penny venders and open stalls on the street. The drinks they sell are not made from pure fruit juices, but from different flavoring extracts that are made to taste like the fruit and are colored with cheap dyes. Even the sweetening in them is not pure sugar, and they are often made or handled in a careless, dirty manner, or exposed to the dust of the street, and to flies.
Not long ago I was at the home of a friend where for supper we had the nicest grape juice I ever tasted. When I said, "How good it is!" one of the little girls piped up, "Billy and I picked the grapes, and sister made it all by herself. She learned how at cooking school."
When I was packing my suitcase to leave, this little girl brought out a big bottle of grape juice and wanted me to take it with me to remember her by. It was all beautifully sealed with wax, and even this she had done by herself! Do you think I could have kept it that way very long? Perhaps not, it was so good; but if I had wanted it for a keepsake, I could have kept it, sealed as it was, for years and years, and it would have been just as sweet and fresh as when it was given to me.
Suppose, instead of keeping it in its bottle, I had poured it out into a glass. Can you tell me what would have happened to it then?
In a few days little bubbles would have come, one after another, up to the top of the juice; and soon it would have been all full of bubbles. What causes the bubbles? Floating all about in the air and sunshine are tiny specks called spores. These are to the tiny yeast plants what seeds are to other plants. Seeds fall into the ground and grow, but these yeast spores fall into the grape juice and grow. While they are growing in the grape juice, they eat what they want from the juice; and, as they eat, they make bubbles of carbon dioxid,—which, you remember, forms in our lungs and looks like air,—and of another substance called alcohol. Of course, when they have changed the juice in this way, it tastes very different. It is then what we call fermented.
Fermented drinks are harmful; but some people like bubbling drinks so much that they leave good fresh grape juice open on purpose to let the little yeast plants get into it and make it into what we call wine. They treat apple juice in just the same way to make cider; and they even take fresh rye and barley and corn, and mash them up, and put yeast plants into the mash to ferment them and make them into whiskey and beer. It does seem a pity, doesn't it, to take good foods like wheat and apples and grapes and make them into these things that really do us harm if we drink them.
A very wise man named Solomon, who lived thousands of years ago, warned people not to drink wine, not even to look at it when it sparkled in the cup. He said no really wise man would drink it. Of course not; the wise man uses the food and drink that make his body grow strong and his brain work true, and no fermented drink can do that.
There is no better drink for anyone than clear pure water, and no better food and drink in one than pure fresh milk.
V. LITTLE COOKS
If you have to come so far to school that you cannot go back to dinner and so must bring a luncheon with you, be sure to take plenty of time to sit down and eat it slowly and chew every piece of food thoroughly. Many children who bring luncheons to school just grab a piece of food in each hand and "bolt" it down as fast as they can possibly bite it off and swallow it, and then rush out to play.
Play is good and very important, but you had better spare ten or fifteen minutes of it in order to chew your lunch thoroughly and swallow it slowly, and then to sit or move about quietly for a few minutes before starting to play hard. This will give your stomach a chance to get all the blood it wants to use in digesting the food; for, you remember, when you romp and play, your blood moves outward toward your skin and away from your stomach. Don't think that, just because you "picnic" at lunch, it is not as important as any other meal.
I hope, however, that it will not be long before almost every school will have a school kitchen and a lunch room; first, so that every girl at least can learn to cook. It is well worth while being able to do; indeed, no girl ought to be considered properly educated until she has learned to cook, and no boy either, for that matter. Then, if the school has this kitchen, it can be used to furnish hot luncheons, or dinners, for those children who cannot conveniently go home in the noon recess. Hot lunches are much more digestible than cold ones, and they taste much better, and are much less likely to be eaten in a hurry.
But why should we learn to cook? Why shouldn't we eat our food raw instead of taking all this trouble and pains to cook it?
I know of a boy—a big lazy fellow—who is always forgetting to do things. He used to go away in the morning without leaving wood enough for the kitchen fire. So his mother said to herself one day, "I'll teach him to remember." The next morning he went off again and left no wood. At noon he came back "hungry as a hunter." She called him in to dinner; and in he came, sat down, picked up the carving knife—then he stopped! What do you suppose was the matter? The beef was raw! Then he lifted the cover of the potato dish, and there lay the potatoes raw! Then he tried another dish and found nice green peas, but hard as little bullets. They were raw, too! Not even the bread had been cooked; it was a soft, sticky mass of dough. His mother, who is a jolly old lady, fairly shook with laughter when she told me about it. She said she never again had to tell him to split wood.
Now that boy didn't need to be told one reason for cooking. We don't like our food raw; it doesn't taste so good. At first, perhaps, that doesn't sound like a very good reason; but it is more important than you think. For it is a fact that, just as soon as you smell food, your stomach begins to get ready the juice that is to digest it. If this very first juice, which is called the appetite juice, is not poured out, then the food may lie in the stomach some little time before it begins to be digested at all. So it is quite important that our food should smell and taste and look good, as well as have plenty of strength and nourishment in it.
Another reason for cooking is that it either softens or crisps our food so that we can chew it better and digest it more readily. You know what a difference there is between trying to eat a raw potato and a nice, mealy, well-baked one, or trying to eat popcorn before it is popped and after.
Another good thing, too, cooking does, which is very important. It kills any disease germs, or germs of decay, that may happen to have got upon the food from dust or flies, or from careless, dirty handling.
Of course, some of our food, such as apples and other ripe fruits, and celery and lettuce and other green vegetables, we can eat raw and digest quite well; but we should be careful to see that they have been thoroughly washed with water that we know to be pure. Grocers often have a careless way of putting fruit and vegetables out upon open stands in front of the shop, or in open boxes or baskets inside the store, and leaving them there all day. This is very dangerous, because dust from the street, which contains horse manure and all sorts of germs, may blow in upon them; flies, which have been eating garbage or feeding at the mouths of sewers, may come in and crawl over them. You ought to be very sure that anything that you are going to eat raw, or without thorough cooking, has been well washed. And you ought to ask your mother to speak to your grocer, if he is careless in this way, and have him keep his fruit and vegetables, as well as sugar and crackers and beans and dried fruit, either under glass or well screened from flies and dust.
More important than almost anything else in good cookery is to keep the food and the kitchen and the dishes and your hands perfectly clean all the way through, so that nothing that will upset your digestion can get into the food. After things are well cooked, it is very important that they should be nicely served on clean dishes, on a clean table cloth, with polished knives and shining spoons and forks. This means not only that everything about the table and the food will be perfectly clean and wholesome, but that you will enjoy eating it a great deal more. And when you enjoy your food, you remember, your stomach can secrete the juice that is needed to digest it, very much faster and better than when, as you say, you are just "poking it down."
If you have a school kitchen and a lunch room, you can learn the best way of cooking and serving things; and then, perhaps, you can do these same things at home and be a real help. Most children are fond of trying to cook, and I am glad that they are. Everyone, boys and girls both, should know how to cook simple things. Perhaps some day you will be stranded, like Robinson Crusoe, on a desert island! Perhaps the rest of the family may be sick. How nice it would be for you to be able to prepare breakfast for them. I know a family where the youngest boy often rises early and gets breakfast for five. He can fry the bacon and boil the eggs and make the coffee and mush and biscuit just as nicely as his mother can; and he takes pride in it and enjoys it.
Cooking is what we call an art. Everyone, of course, can learn to do it; but some people can do it much better than others, just as some boys and girls can draw better than others. I hope some of you will be what we might call "artist cooks." Take pride in the art and learn all that you can about it. There are so many things a cook should know.
A great deal of good food is spoiled by bad cookery, particularly by frying slowly in tepid grease, or fat, so that it becomes soaked with grease. You should have the frying pan just as hot as possible before you begin to fry; and then the meat or potatoes or cakes will be seared, or coated over, on the outside, so that the fat cannot soak into them, and they will not only taste better, but will be much more digestible.
In baking you will have to be careful not to let the oven become too hot, or else the meat or bread will be burned or scorched. Even if the heat does not do this, it may harden and toughen the outside of the meat so that it is almost impossible either to chew or digest.
Sugar is really a very good food if you do not eat too much at once, and so pure candy is good for you if you do not eat too much. The very best time to eat it is at the end of a meal. If you learn to make it at school or at home, you can always have some to eat after your luncheon without having to buy it. If you do buy candy, don't get the bright colored kind; it looks pretty, but it may hurt you. And be sure to see that it has been kept under a cover, where the dust and flies could not get at it. Dust is dirty, and flies don't wipe their feet. You want clean, pure candy.
Of course, after cooking, you will always be very careful to wash up all the pots and pans and dishes that you have used. Food and scraps that are left sticking to dishes and cooking utensils very quickly turn sour and decay; and then the next time the dishes are used, you will perhaps have an attack of indigestion, and wonder why.
There are two things you should always notice: Whether the bread you eat is sweet and thoroughly baked; if it is soggy and sour, it will make trouble in your stomach. Whether all your food is clean and fresh before it is cooked; this you can tell by your eyes and nose.
VI. TASTING AND SMELLING
When, at home, you give the baby a ball or a key or a watch to play with, what does he do with it the very first thing? He is never quite happy, is he, until he has put it into his mouth? Does he want to eat it? No, he wants to feel it; and he has not yet learned to feel very carefully with his hands, as you do.
Can you feel with your mouth? If you have the least little hole in one of your teeth, you know it as soon as you rub your tongue against it. How big it feels and how rough the edges seem! If you take a looking-glass, you find, if you can see the hole at all, that it is just a tiny, tiny hole.
Your tongue and lips, like the rest of your skin, are always touching and feeling things for you and sending messages to the brain. They say whether your milk is hot or cold, and whether the food you eat is soft enough and quite right in other ways. Your tongue is a very busy little "waiter": he passes the food about in your mouth for the teeth to chew, and he rolls it about at a great rate. But he does more than this; he tells you something about how it tastes—not everything, as you may think, but only whether it is bitter, sweet, sour, or salty. Queer as it may seem, your nose tells you the other "tastes," which are really smells. It is your nose that says whether you have a strawberry or a piece of onion in your mouth, whether it is coffee or cocoa that you are drinking.
Of what other use is your nose?—for only a little patch in the upper part is for smelling and tasting. The greater part of the nose is to breathe through. You see, your nose warms and moistens the outside air that you take in, so that, by the time it reaches your throat, it is as warm as your body and does not hurt your throat. Your nose also strains, or filters, out of the air the dust, lint, and germs that may be floating in it.
You should always keep your lips closed and breathe through your nose. Whenever you cannot breathe through your nose, there is something the matter. It may be that your nose is swollen shut with a "cold"; but that will last only a few days. If, however, your nose often feels "stuffed up," there is probably something in it or behind it, that ought to be taken away. A throat doctor can easily cure you; and, when he has, you'll be surprised how much better you feel and how much faster you grow.
I once knew a little girl whose nose was always blocked up. She had headache and felt tired most of the time and was behind in her classes. The doctor told her what was the matter, but her father and mother were afraid that it might hurt her to have the doctor take out what was clogging her nose. Well, what did she do? Instead of crying and being afraid, one day she walked right into the doctor's office and asked him to take out the adenoids, as we call these growths that block up the nose. And after the doctor had taken them out, she began to grow well and fat and strong so fast that she soon "caught up" in her classes.
When you breathe well through your nose, you can smell and taste better, too. In fact, when your nose is clogged, you cannot smell at all.
How does this sense of smell help us? You say we can smell the flowers and the fresh air after the rain, and cookies baking, and all the things that we like so well. Yes, and these give us pleasure; but how about the bad smells? The bad smells are warnings. If there is a dead mouse or rat about, we smell it; and that leads us to look for it and take it away. We smell the dirt and get rid of it, and thus keep away sickness. When we walk into a room, if the air is bad we smell it at once and open a window or a door, and so save ourselves from being poisoned.
Some people hurt their noses by smoking tobacco. The inside skin of the nose is very delicate, and the smoke going back and forth through the nose and the throat keeps them from doing their work properly. It is very bad for little children even to smell tobacco smoke. It seems in some way to keep them from growing as they would in clear fresh air. What a silly habit smoking is! It does no one any good. It hurts not only the people who make the smoke, but the people who have to smell it. Most of the people who smoke tobacco have to learn to like it. It almost always makes them very sick when they first begin.
Sir Walter Raleigh, or the men he sent to America, first taught our great-great-great-grandfathers to smoke. His men bought tobacco of the Indians here and took it back to England; and Sir Walter himself learned to smoke and made smoking fashionable. The first time that Sir Walter's servant saw him smoking, he thought his master was on fire; so what did he do but bring a big bucket of water and throw it all over him! I wish that that bucket of water had settled the matter, so that Sir Walter had stopped smoking and had never taught anyone else to smoke. If it had, think how much money might have been put to better use, for smoking is a very costly habit. And it is not only wasteful of money, but, worse still, of health; for it is the cause of a great deal of poor health and disease.