2009-09-04 / Community

New Kids Book Teaches Water Safety Lessons

By Mallory Wyman

Blake Collingsworth's new book, "Josh The Baby Otter," teaches an important lesson in water safety for children. Blake Collingsworth's new book, "Josh The Baby Otter," teaches an important lesson in water safety for children. Blake Collingsworth never intended to become a crusader until the tragic drowning death of his young son, Joshua in 2008 spurred him to take up the mantle of water safety ambassador within his home state of Nebraska and beyond.

In collaboration with his non-profit organization, the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation, Collingsworth has published a children's book, "Josh the Baby Otter," to spread the message of water safety to both children and parents. Water safety has become a major concern for all Rockaway residents, following the slew of recent drowning deaths.

The main message that Collingsworth hopes children and parents will take away from his book is that, "water is fun but it's something that we all need to do together," he said.

One of the main goals of the book is to promote communication between parents and children regarding water safety. Before his son's accident, Collingsworth said, "I never took the time to talk to him. I always thought I would be with him near the water."

The problem is basic awareness as drowning is not discussed on a main-stream level, Collingsworth said. "We need to be talking about water safety and awareness all the time." He hopes that by raising awareness it will become as instinctive for parents to teach their children about water safety as it is to warn them about hot stoves or busy parking lots.

The story, in which a baby otter named Josh learns to float, promotes early childhood swimming education as one of the simplest ways to prevent drowning deaths.

"If your child can crawl, they can learn to float on their back," Collingsworth says in an open letter in the back of his book, which also includes the music and lyrics to a children's song, "Learn to Float," and a singalong CD.

In the event of an accident where a child is in the water alone, being able to float or even just turn around and grab the side of a pool could buy enough time for someone to reach her or him. "One of the earliest things they can learn is to hold their breath and reach around and grab the side," Collingsworth said.

Collingsworth's aim is not to make children fear the water, but to make them understand that water is something they only go near with an adult.

Though the book focuses on floating in particular, Collingsworth did have some additional tips on ocean safety for Rockaway beach dwellers. "[People should] pay attention to the signs. When the flags are up or the water is rough, don't ignore it," he said. He also advocated the buddy system, emphasizing that no one should swim alone.

Collingsworth is working on a second book chronicling the further adventures of Josh as he grows older and expands his message of safety. For more information on water safety, the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation, or "Josh the Baby Otter," visit www.joshuamemorial.org.

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