My Body is Special and Private Board book – October 8, 2018
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This book is a great resource for naming private body parts accurately for both girls and boys. It also clearly sends the message to kids that private parts are just for them, and that all grown-ups know the rules about not sharing private parts. This point is extremely important, since it correctly places the responsibility of child safety with adults who know the rules. With a few modifications, this book could be a useful tool for both abuse prevention and recovery.
The very last page of the book is what makes it likely inappropriate for children who have already experienced abuse, especially of a violent nature. This is a common issue with sexual abuse prevention books. The last page states that it is "always right to tell", with always written in bold. For abused children who are also victims of domestic violence, they may be keeping a secret to save their lives or the lives of other primary care givers. This book does not consider such possibilities. While many abusers use threats of harm, most child abuse prevention books do not accurately or sufficiently discuss situations where the threat of harm is imminent and real, such as sexual assault and rape with the use of a deadly weapon. Although many adults have difficulty accepting that truly violent assaults take place, it is a reality that must be addressed in abuse prevention. Using different words, the author could send a more comprehensive message that sometimes in scary situations, waiting to tell until the child feels ready and safe is appropriate. Sometimes the child will not feel ready for many months or even longer. Reading that "it's always right to tell" could be upsetting to a child who didn't tell, suggesting that a child who doesn't tell isn't doing the right thing but is instead doing the wrong thing.
Also including a simple statement about how abuse is never a child's fault, and even if the child did not tell about a past incident, they did the best they could with what they had would make this book more accessible to all children. It is well documented in peer reviewed research that children are rarely ready to reveal abuse immediately following the event, especially if the abuse is traumatic.
The closing line in the book is also problematic for abuse victims and their families. There is a picture of two adults (assumed to be parents) sitting with a child on a couch, and the last line says: "It's our job to keep you safe and well". While clearly abuse prevention is something that every parent should be vigilant and educated about, it implies that all abuse is preventable when that isn't true in every case. No parent is all seeing or all knowing. Even the most educated and loving parents can be lied to and taken advantage of. Abuse prevention is the responsibility of an entire community, not only the parents. An abused child reading this book could take away the message that his or her parents failed them, when in reality the parents may have been vigilant and the child was abused anyway. Speaking this way about sexual abuse also implies that parents who don't "do their job" cause abuse or allow it to happen. Sexual abuse happens because adults choose to sexually abuse children. The responsibility of abuse lies with the abuser. If other adults knew about the abuse and chose to do nothing, that is another matter. But parents of abused children do not cause abuse simply by being parents who did not recognize that their child was being abused.
I really wanted to give 5 stars but honestly feel there are other more comprehensive body safety books I prefer.