Henry and the Gym Monster helping Students through their Social and Emotional Growth


My name is Ben Lancour, author of Henry and the Gym Monster, and K-5 elementary physical education teacher at Sullivan and Danz Elementary School within the Green Bay Area Public School District. Since 2019, both schools have participated in the NFL PLAY 60 FitnessGram Project which provides access to the FitnessGram software and NFL PLAY 60 programming through the NFL Foundation. Introducing the FitnessGram assessment has been eye-opening for my students.

Due to the pandemic, my students have increased sedentary behaviors such as sitting, eating, and playing video games. The pandemic was such a health scare that it was easier for everyone to be seated during this time. Sadly, it’s more convenient to let the kids sit in front of screens than spend quality time together, or sending them outside to play.

When I say “eye-opening” I mean it was very difficult for them to test. I presented a question to my 3rd graders, “What does this tell you (and all of us) about exercise?” The consensus was obviously to exercise MORE.

We recently returned to a blended learning model, and we will continue testing our 3rd – 5th graders through May.

A question that I’m often asked in regard to Henry and the Gym Monster is “Why did you write it?” In a previous position, I taught students with severe/emotional disabilities in a self-contained setting. Some of my favorite conversations took place in the area of social-emotional growth. We’d often discuss situations where we can grow using books written by Julia Cook. Her books inspired me to be one of the first people to create a resource where these topics are being explored in a picture book in a GYM setting. Without that job and my students, this book would’ve never happened.

Second, I feel proud creating something that battles the stigma that PE teachers simply roll out a ball and let the kids play, suggesting laziness. Two years of hard work, building bonds with other authors, joining self-publishing classes, seeking out an illustrator/editor/graphic designer were not easy tasks. However, alas, the book is finally here and ready to be read.

Summary of Henry and the Gym Monster

Henry and the Gym Monster book by Ben Lancour

All Henry wants to do is play games with his friends in the gym, but Manny, the P.E. monster, tricks him into playing his way. Henry needs to figure out how to defeat his monster before he grows to a size he can’t control.

Henry and the Gym Monster’ is a resource for parents, counselors, and any educator that supports children with their social and emotional growth. I want to spread awareness about social/emotional resources that can be utilized in a gym setting.

Henry and The Gym Monster is now available for a pre-order through Kickstarter henryandthegymmonster.com.

Visit us at benlancourbooks.com to stay up to date on anything Henry and Manny.

Guest Blog provided by Ben Lancour

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