Books as aids to keep your kids safe from child sexual abuse

If you’re having trouble wondering how to address child sexual abuse with your kids, these books can help you.


Let me begin by saying that literature for very small children does not lack cautionary tales.

We have a multitude of nursery rhymes which bring up the element of abuse and bullying, introducing these as a possibility. Think of Georgie Porgie kissing the girls and making them cry, or a great big spider coming along to bother Miss Muffet.

We have fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood who was attacked by the Big Bad Wolf, or the Grimm Brothers’ version The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids where the kids are attacked when the mother goat is out shopping, or those like The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson and the parallel character of the White Witch in the Narnia series—I could go on.

Then we have the book series like Berenstain Bears books (Learn about strangers), the gentle, funny Mike Gordon books that make the kids think, like SafetyThe Playground ProblemI Feel BulliedIts Not FairI Feel Sad, and many more that deal with peer behaviour, intimidation, feelings of sadness and guilt, etc., that are key terms in any kind of abuse, including sexual abuse.

Educating children about their bodies, biological changes at puberty, and answering questions about gender and sexuality is empowering to the child, as it dispels myths and insecurities brought about by information gathered from peers and the media, which can be really crippling sometimes.

There are many wonderful books that can be used with children, like Babette Cole’s Hair in funny placesMummy never told me and Mummy laid an egg.

Then there are the amazing selection of books by Robie H. Harris which, however, have the disadvantage of too much information in one book, which might not be all needed at the same time. Parents can however find these books a great help for empowering themselves to talk to their children, as well as use them with children if they feel comfortable about it.

These books, or maybe some other books that may be found with a quick search online, and which may be available at the local book store or library may be looked up to use in teaching your child to keep safe.

Here are some books used specifically by me on the topic at hand. That said, it is up to each parent to assess their child and choose the best age / method of educating their child, and if using a book doesn’t work for them, that is OK, too. As long as steps are taken to protect the child.

The Yellow Book – A Parent’s Guide to Sexuality Education

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Pic – Tarshi

Written by: Tarshi

Published by: Zubaan Books

A good book for any parent to read, it guides them through the why, when, and how of sex education, dispelling any myths like “if my child has this information, he/she will be tempted to experiment”. On the contrary. The book enables parents to ensure that their child knows how to recognise inappropriate behaviour, and is able to stand up against it.

So how does one speak to the child at different ages? Discussions appropriate for and understandable by teenagers may not be so for preteens or even younger children. The book discusses issues important at the different ages and the ways to approach them.

Other than the aspect of sex education and awareness against sexual abuse, the book also deals with topics relevant to peer behaviour like playing doctor-doctor, social images, sex talk, infatuations, experimentation, ‘cool’ behaviour, sexual harassment, date-rape, substance abuse, intimate partner abuse, gendering, etc. Empowerment is the way to prevent and deal with abuse. A comprehensive book.

Tarshi, the creators of this book, also have other books like The Orange Book which is a resource book for teachers and schools, The Red Book, which is aimed towards children 10-14 years of age, and The Blue Book, which is for children older than 15 years. The last two are also available in many regional languages of India like Hindi, Gujarati, Bangla, Kannada, Marathi, Oriya, Tamil, and Telugu.

Having educated myself, I went about looking for books to share with my child. Found some great ones.

The Right Touch

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Pic – Barnes & Noble

Written by: Sandy Kleven

Illustrated by: Jody Bergsma

Ages: 4+ (read aloud)

Bedtimes are quiet times, a time for Jimmy and his mother to talk about anything that they may want to talk about. They talk about hugs, and tickling, and surprises, and how all these would be a problem if he did not want them.

They talk about a girl, someone real, who was called by someone into their house to look at some kittens. This person told her that they would show her the kittens if she sat on their lap. Feeling uneasy about that, she ran away to her home, and told her parents all about it. That person then got into trouble over it.

They talk about when it is okay for someone to touch him, and when it is not; how parts covered by a swimming suit are out of bounds; how it is okay for them to say “No” even if it is to someone older, someone they love, and if it could upset that person.

“If something like this happens to you, don’t be afraid to tell me, even if it is supposed to be a secret. And remember, touching problems are never a child’s fault.”

The book has notes for the parent /caregiver that are very succinct and helpful. This is a good resource book, suitable for children as young as 4 years old. The text is gentle, non-distressing, and in the form of a heart-to-heart talk between a mother and her child. There is nothing explicit in the book, and nothing that a 4 year old may not be ready for.

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Pic – Barnes & Noble

My Body Is Private

Written by: Linda Walvoord Girard

Illustrated by: Rodney Pate

Published by: Albert Whitman & Co.

Ages: 8+

Just like the previous book, this is the story of Julie, told by her in the first person. She is at an age when she already knows that things belonging to someone are can be private, out of bounds to others. Like someone’s personal letter, or her mother’s handbag.

So it is a simple thing for her mother to broach the idea that the parts of her body covered by a swimsuit (I think this is a wonderful method of identifying their private body parts for even very young children) are private too, and that “nobody should touch me in those places unless there is a very good reason.” She specifies that this holds true for boys as well as girls.

“It might be a stranger, or it may be someone you know, like a babysitter, a teacher, or a friend,” Mom said, “or even someone in our family. It probably won’t ever happen. You don’t need to worry about it; you just need to know what to do– the way you know what to do if a fire starts.”

“I’d get mad,” I told Mom. “I’d shout ‘NO’ and run away.”

“Good!” she said. “And you must come and tell me what happened…no matter who it is. I don’t care if it’s Santa Claus—you tell me. Or some grown-up you trust—never be afraid to tell. No matter what happened, it’s not your fault.”

Evocative sketches in black-and-white-and-sepia bring alive the conversations in the book, giving us a peek into Julie’s family. With Julie, my daughter too experienced a sense of empowerment in the affirmation that she had a right to say “No”! Even if it is to someone she loves and trusts; someone who could misuse that trust!

A note for parents at the end of the book says, “You need to feel comfortable talking about, or your child will pick up your discomfort and may be reluctant to talk.”

Some of these books may have a younger age specified on them than the parent may be comfortable with for their particular child. Again, I would say, you are the best judge.

I used The Right Touch first to broach the topic to my daughter when she was about 7, as I didn’t want to scare her. I sat and read the book to her, at a quiet one-to-one time. She had many questions, which, thanks to The Yellow Book, I had satisfactory answers for.

The third book, My Body Is Private, was a more recent addition, and one that she could read and comprehend by herself now, although we did read it through together. And yes, there were many questions now too, with better insight, thanks to her age and peer group. She had been never left with anyone else until she was 3. After that, I did keep telling her about how parts of her body are private, ‘stranger danger’, and how she needed to keep me informed all the time as to her whereabouts. More about that with our last book.

Come and Tell Me: Be sensible – and safe

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Pic – Amazon

Written by: Helen Hollick

Illustrated by: Lynda Knott

Ages: 4+ (read aloud)

This is a read-aloud story to help prevent child sexual abuse. All parents can identify with this book, whether abuse is a possibility or not.

When Jenny plays with her friends in the park near her house, her mother can usually keep an eye on her from their window. One day, she was not to be seen anywhere, and her mother became frantic looking for her. Jenny had actually just gone to her friend Darren’s house with him for an ice-cream, and got scolded by her mother on returning.

Jenny was upset and began to cry. Why was Mum so angry?

Back indoors, Mrs McCann gave Jenny a big hug.

“I’m not really angry,” she said, “but sometimes worrying makes you say and feel things you don’t mean.”

“I was only at Darren’s house,” sniffed Jenny.

“But I didn’t know that, did I?” Mum answered.

Then Jenny and her mother had a long chat about strangers, and how they can sometimes, not always, be bad, and how it is not easy to tell the good from the bad. How sometimes we need to take help from strangers. But, how it is important that she must not go anywhere with anyone, or get into someone’s car or house without first asking her parents, or her teacher, or a trusted adult who is looking after her.

Also that a person who does not mean her any harm will usually not object to her informing her parents, or will not ask her to keep anything that they say or do a secret.

“The best and the most important thing to do,” Mum added “is to always come and tell me where you want to go. As long as you tell one of us, we will know where you are and that you are safe.”

The book gives relevant points for discussion with a child, and cautions, that when children do come and tell, “It is your part of the bargain, as an adult, to listen when they do come and tell.”

Here are some more books, printed material and other resources for parents to use to keep their child safe from the big bad wolf.

There are also books like this one recently reviewed at Saffrontree, which is an award-winning YA book dealing with abuse at home , or this book by Anita Naik for teens – ‘Little Book Self-Esteem’, a wonderful book that can be introduced when the child is older.

Adapted by the author from a piece written earlier for SaffronTree. Read the original piece here.


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sandhya Renukamba is a doctor-turned-writer, mother to a tween, a history enthusiast, a lover of Hindustani classical music, a bibliophile who would like more people on this planet to read, and a compulsive buyer of books. Her home is drowning in books, and she is sure to be able to pull out at least one on any given topic. She shares the books she and her daughter read at www.saffrontree.org, and... more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sandhya Renukamba is a doctor-turned-writer, mother to a tween, a history enthusiast, a lover of Hindustani classical music, a bibliophile who would like more people on this planet to read, and a compulsive buyer of books. Her home is drowning in books, and she is sure to be able to pull out at least one on any given topic. She shares the books she and her daughter read at www.saffrontree.org, and... more

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