We live in an imperfect world. At times it even seems cruel and dangerous. As much as I want to raise my children to believe that every person is good and loving, unfortunately this is not the case. I want my children to always look for the good in people, but also know just enough that they won’t naively become a victim.
I’m sharing these books because I think they are a great way to open conversations with our kids about some very tough issues…issues we don’t want to discuss, but need to. It’s our job as parents to protect our children and one way we can do this is by empowering them to help themselves through knowledge and education!
I’m sharing books about stranger safety, good touches, and even where babies come from! I am a Bible-believing Christian, so the books I recommend come through this lens. I will include any references to Christianity in the book description so that you will be informed about the content of the book, whether you share the same beliefs that I do or not. I suggest using these books as a springboard for your own family discussions. The books themselves will do little good unless there is follow-up afterwards.
I’ve never liked the term “stranger danger”, even as catchy as it is to say and remember. I don’t want my children to be fearful of strangers because 99.9% of the strangers they meet are actually kind and good. I want my children to know that it is okay to talk to strangers when they are with Mommy and Daddy. In fact, my husband and I encourage it. We want them to be friendly and respectful to the people that they meet. Since our children are always with one of us (or a trusted adult like a grandparent, teacher, or a very rare babysitter), this isn’t a problem. As they get older, however, they need to know that talking to strangers without us is not a good idea…just in case.
Big Brother is at the age where this discussion needs to take place. He is extremely friendly and can carry on a conversation with any person of any age (he takes after his Daddy). As endearing and adorable as it is, it is time to set some boundaries on the issue of stranger safety.
The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers by Stan & Jan Berenstain
This book is a great resource for parents who wish to instill a sense of caution into their children regarding the issue of strangers without being scary or intimidating. Brother Bear and Sister Bear are very different when it comes to strangers–Brother Bear is very shy and cautious and Sister Bear is friendly and will talk to anyone. Papa Bear talks to Sister Bear about the dangers of talking to strangers and she becomes scared until Mama Bear clarifies with apples as an illustration. Most apples in the barrel are just fine, but there is sometimes a rotten one in the bunch. When a stranger has a model airplane that Brother is interested in, he forgets all about his caution with strangers and nearly gets in the car with the owner of the model airplane. Sister intervenes and the family has another discussion. The incident is not scary, which I appreciated, especially since was the first time I’ve discussed this topic with my children. A list of “rules” can be found at the back of the book, which I modified slightly to best fit our family’s needs. This book would be appropriate for children ages three to five and is a good introduction into the discussion of stranger safety.
Not Everyone is Nice by Frederick Alimonti and Ann Tedesco
This book is much more intimidating than The Berenstain Bears and is probably more appropriate for older children (6+). A young girl named Kathy has an incident as she is waiting for her mom to pick her up from school. As she is waiting, a “nice” man pulls up in his car and begins to talk to her. After chatting with the girl and building her trust, the stranger then tries to lure her into the car with candy, assuring Kathy that he will take her home since he lives on the same street. Her mom arrives right before the child gets in the car and the stranger zooms away when questioned by the mother. After the incident, Kathy’s dad talks to her about how some people may seem nice, but they really might be dangerous. He then introduces her to several ocean animals that appear harmless, yet are extremely deadly. I have not read this to my children yet, but will keep tucked away until they are slightly more mature (or if an incident happens close to our home). I think it is a great resource for school-aged children, especially for children who are no longer supervised 100% of the time.
This is the part of the post where I get a little squeamish. I don’t like talking about this stuff with adults, let alone children. It disgusts and even angers me that there is a need to discuss it. But sadly, there is and it makes me want to cry. According to Parents for Megan’s Law:
- “1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before their eighteenth birthday.
- Children are most vulnerable between the ages of 8-12 .
- Children with disabilities are 4 to 10 times more likely to be sexually abused than their non-disabled peers.”
These statistics are scary. I don’t want my child to become a victim just because his parents are naive and don’t equip our child with this vital information. Here are some books that I found to be helpful when discussing “safe touches” with your child.
God Made Me: The Safe Touch Coloring Book by Dr. Beth Robinson
This coloring book written by Dr. Beth Robinson, who happens to be my Dad’s cousin, was created after she was asked to counsel a church where a 9-year old boy had molested younger children during small group meetings held in homes. The coloring book is designed to be a non-threatening way for parents to educate their children about sexual safety. The book starts off telling all the things that God created, “And best of all, God created me.” The book then goes on to state how God wants us to take care of our bodies (brushing teeth, washing hands, etc) and then begins the discussion of safe touches. Nearly every aspect of sexual abuse is tackled in this little coloring book, including assuring the child that he/she won’t get in trouble for telling a trusted adult, that it’s not okay to keep secrets when someone touches you, and a place to write the names of the grownups that you can trust. I think this is the perfect way to introduce sexual safety to your children without it being scary or intimidating. Even though it is a coloring book and the illustrations are black-and-white, it is the book I recommend ahead of all the others. If you aren’t religious, there is also a generic Safe Touch Coloring Book that is available that does not include any references to God.
Your Body Belongs to You by Cornelia Spelman
Your Body Belongs to You is a great introduction for very young children to the concept of sexual safety. The book is written in short sentences with colorful illustrations. The author encourages children not to give or accept hugs if they don’t want to. I admit that I often encourage my kids to give hugs or show affection to relatives and close friends, even when they might be hesitant at first. After all, I don’t want them to be rude! But I think this book helped me see the need to read my child’s body language to assess whether they feel genuinely uncomfortable or are just being strong-willed and noncompliant. This book does not go in-depth about unsafe touches, but does tell children that the parts of your body that are covered up with a swimsuit should never be touched, unless a parent or trusted adult is helping you bathe or go to the bathroom OR when you go to the doctor. Overall, I think this is a helpful book for very young children. If you’re looking for a more thorough book (for slightly older children), I would suggest the other books shared in this section.
I Said No! A kid-to-kid Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private by Zack and Kimberly King
This is a unique book because it is co-authored by a mother-son team. Kimberly is a kindergarten teacher who decided to write this book, along with her son, as way to help him heal after an incident where inappropriate touching occurred at a sleepover at his best friend’s house. The book is written in first person from Zack’s perspective and is quite a bit longer than the other two I shared above. It is more appropriate for school-aged children and it includes specific scenarios that a child should watch out for. The book is written for a parent to read to a child and includes some discussion thoughts throughout. The book does not use the names for private parts, but encourages the parent and child to talk about them saying, “There are doctor names and lots of other names for your private parts! We are sure you have heard of a few of them! You might want to talk about some of those names now.” The book teaches a child to identify “red flag” and “green flag” people as a way to know which adults you can feel safe and comfortable with. The book also talks extensively about treats, bribes, and threats and how they might be used to make a child do something they aren’t comfortable with. One thing that I DON’T appreciate about this book is the fact that the author uses the word “heck” (i.e. Get the heck out of there!). Although I understand that this language is meant to convey urgency, this is not a word we use in our house. This isn’t a huge problem right now because I can edit it while reading aloud, but I still would have preferred the author use a different phrase.
How Babies are Made
The question is inevitable. At some point during the first several years of your child’s life, he/she will ask how babies are made (or where they come from). If you’ve never watched this Kia commercial, watch it for a good laugh. As much as we might want to credit storks or space launches from Baby-landia for the little bundles of joy, it isn’t going to fly for our kids (even if it is much easier on us). :)
With sexuality constantly in our faces in one form or another (via billboards, the internet, television, or scantily-clad women), it is important to equip our children with facts and sex and procreation…censored facts for their tender ages, but facts nonetheless. I am sharing two books for your regarding this issue: One for younger kids (ages 5 to 6) and one for slightly older children (7 to 8). Both of these books are part of the God’s Design for Sex series. Obviously, both of these books are written from a Christian perspective with Biblical teaching on our bodies and sexuality.
The Story of Me by Stan and Brenna Jones
This book begins with a small boy asking his Daddy and Mommy to tell him where he came from. His Mom and Dad begin by telling him that God created both him and his Mommy and Daddy (and their Mommies and Daddies). God began by having his Mommy and Daddy love each other. Then after they were married, God took a tiny piece of his Daddy’s body and a tiny piece of his Mommy’s body and made him. God made a special place in his Mommy’s body for him to grow while he was a tiny baby. And then when it was time, the baby came out. The book uses medical words for the body parts, which you may or may not be comfortable with. I personally would rather my kids know the actual names of their body parts rather than nicknames. After this description, the book the proceeds to talk about how God made us to love and obey him. It also tells how we can show love to each other by hugs and kisses, and taking care of each other. There is a short page that describes how hugs and kisses aren’t good if you don’t want them. “God doesn’t want anyone to take love from you that you don’t want to share.”
Overall, I think this is a good book for traditional families who are striving to raise their children to love and honor God in the way that is shared in the Bible. This book might be confusing for children who were adopted, although there is a short mention in the book regarding adoption. This book would also cause more questions for children who are raised in a single-parent family. The publisher recommends this book for ages 3-5. I would say that it is more appropriate for ages 5-6 or even older!
Before I Was Born by Carolyn Nystrom
I’ll be honest: I nearly had an anxiety attack while reading this book. It is VERY descriptive in words and pictures, even though the pictures are soft and muted. The publisher recommends this book for children ages 5 and 8. I have a five-year old and there is NO WAY that we will be reading this book within the next year or two. Not because I think it is bad or dirty, but because I don’t think he is ready for it. I do, however, think it is an important book to read when the time is right (like 22…just kidding, around 7-9). This important information needs to come from PARENTS first, not peers or schools. We need to be responsible for ensuring that our children know how God created our bodies. Again, this book approaches the subject of sex from a Biblical viewpoint, including the fact that God designed sex to take place when two people are married. It also goes into a lot of detail regarding conception, pregnancy, and birth. Overall, it is a beneficial book for parents to use a springboard for “the talk”.
Phew…now we’ve tackled a few of the tough subjects in life with books. Which books do you prefer to use for teaching these subjects?
Also, be sure to check out these books on another super tough subject: Death, loss, and grief.
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