CHICAGO (CBS) — Swimming lessons are not just about having fun in the water, they can also be a matter of life and death for young children.

Kyle Kamman, the aquatics director of the YMCA of Metro Chicago, said most drownings happen within sight of help. In fact, 60 percent of kids die within 10 ft. of safety and 88 percent happen while under adult supervision.

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The YMCA of Metro Chicago, along with other Y’s around the country, are introducing an innovative, progressive swim program. Kamman said the lessons are designed to help kids self-rescue.

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Participants will learn techniques such as the “Swim, Float, Swim,” which teaches them to float in between their strokes, preventing them from tiring out before they make it back to the edge of the pool. Another practice the Y teaches is the “Jump, Push, Turn, Grab” — this sequence mimics what happens to kids when they fall into the water and teaches them how to get back to safety.

According to Kamman, children can start swimming lessons as early as six months old.

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Kamman provided WBBM with statistics that support the Y’s vigilance in teaching swimming, water safety and drowning prevention:

  • 3 kids die every day from drowning
  • Drowning is the second-leading cause of deaths for kids ages 5-14
  • 70 percent of African American and 60 percent of Hispanic children cannot swim, compared to just 40 percent of Caucasian children
  • African American children ages 5 to 14 are 3 times more likely to drown than their white peers
  • Participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent among children one to four years old
  • More than 1 million kids take swim lessons at the Y every year