It's back-to-school time. That means kids are back

to the 4 R's -- reading, writing, 'rithmetic and recess.

These days kids are doing plenty of reading

and writing, but not as much recess. Some principals and teachers are so worried about how their students will do on state tests that schools are replacing recess with more class time.

The American Association for the Child's Right to Play

estimates that in the last few years nearly

40 percent of the schools have either cut

back on recess or have thought about it.

That's crazy. School is not just about academics. It's important for kids to be healthy, stay in good shape and learn how to play with others. Kids learn those things at recess.

Recess is especially important now, because lots of kids do not move around enough. Too many kids spend too much time watching TV or playing video games. Actually, kids usually don't play when they are doing video games. They just stare at a screen and move their thumbs. Maybe that's why the percentage of overweight kids ages 6 to 11 has doubled in the last 20 years, and the percentage of overweight teenagers has tripled.

But kids do play and move around at recess. They play four-square, kick soccer balls, jump rope or just run around, play tag and scream their heads off. Some studies even say that all this running around at recess helps kids to concentrate better in class.

The ancient Greeks -- they're the folks who started the Olympics -- believed in "a sound mind, in a sound body."

I'll bet the ancient Greeks had plenty of recess.

Speaking of the Olympics . . . Lots of people were upset with last week's column. I wrote that gymnast Paul Hamm should give back his gold medal because the judges miscalculated the score of Yang Tae Young of South Korea. If the judges had done the scoring correctly, Yang, not Hamm, would have won the gold.

I read all the e-mails and I still think Hamm should have given the gold medal to Yang. Most people argued that Hamm deserved the gold because the judges missed a mistake in Yang's parallel bar routine. If the judges had made the proper deduction for Yang's mistake, he would not have earned the gold medal.

To me, the judges missing Yang's mistake and not deducting points is like when a referee misses a traveling call in a basketball game or a tag at home plate in baseball. Those kinds of missed calls are part of the game. Every athlete has to deal with bad calls -- even ones that might affect the score of the game. But every competitor is also entitled to have the officials add his or her score correctly.

Finally, I wonder what folks would be saying if the mistake had gone the other way? What if Paul Hamm had come back after his fall and had done those fabulous routines but received only the bronze medal because the judges incorrectly added up his score?

Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's Friday sports column and is the author of sports novels for kids.

Not just

hanging around: Studies say that recess might even help kids better concentrate

in class.