New children’s book uses sea creatures to teach kids ages 4 to 8 how recognize and talk about abuse
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month
Summit County Children’s Justice Center founder Dr. Christina Sally has dedicated her career to preventing child abuse.
She gives presentations at schools and has set up Camp Safety, a summer camp that empowers children so they feel comfortable about discussing issues surrounding abuse with their adults.
Her most recent undertaking is the children’s book, “I Know You And…” that is available on her website, drchristinasallyphd.com.
“I Know You And…”, which is designed to reach children ages 4 to 8, follows a young killer whale named Mina through a journey that teaches her and her readers to keep their bodies safe from somebody they may know and how to recognize situations where a known adult may want to abuse them, Sally said.
“We teach children the ‘stranger danger’ concept really well, but it’s hard to teach children about the realities that most abusers are people they know or someone that is known to their families,” Sally said. “So this book will help children, parents and caregivers have that conversation.”
The idea of using cute sea creatures to teach an uncomfortable topic emerged from a puppet show Sally would do during her school presentations.
“The book morphed from the puppet show I did that taught children how to keep their bodies safe,” she said. “After years of doing the puppet show and seeing the reactions of the kids that told me they were understanding the concept, I decided to put it into a book format so it could be more widespread around our community.”
Another reason Sally decided to use sea creatures is to connect with the children in a more abstract and comfortable way.
“Children are literal, and this is a challenge for anyone who works with children around these topics,” she said. “Parents and caregivers can use these characters to ask their children about the private parts of their bodies, and help identify them through proper terminology. They can also use these creatures to say nobody has the right to touch those private areas.”
Sally connected with Lauren Nadler, founder of Park City Publishing, to publish the book.
“I felt compelled to work with someone locally, and Lauren is an amazing publisher,” Sally said. “We started talking about the story, and she said she could connect me with illustrators. But she also had done a few designs, and I absolutely loved them. So we decided to work together on this book.”
Sally’s next goal is to get parents’ permission to put the book into the hands of every kindergartner in the county free of charge.
“We have some grant money, and April is Child Abuse Prevention Month,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that the onus is put upon our children to say, ‘No’ or ‘Stop that,’ but we have to have those important dialogues so they will not be afraid to disclose that something may have happened to them.”
“I Know You And…” is also available in Spanish, and includes a companion activity-coloring book.
“The topics we cover can be scary and confusing, so this activity book helps children work through the things that are addressed in the book,” Sally said.
Still, Sally knows too well how real the issues are.
“There was a situation when I was doing a safety lesson at a preschool, and a little girl said, ‘No, it’s ok if someone touches you down there and you touch them down there,’” Sally said. “That’s why the book is important for children. We need to make comfortable situations for them so they may be more apt to tell their parents, foster parents, guardians, grandparents or aunts and uncles that something happened to them.”
For information about “I Know You And…” visit drchristinasallyphd.com and parkcitypublishing.com.
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