A longtime youth worker and sexual abuse counsellor has written his first children’s book to help teach children how to identify and respond to “unsafe touch.”
This month Nanaimo’s Ralph Frank released Lady B Spots Trouble, his first in a trilogy of books aimed at children from kindergarten to Grade 2. The book follows Lady B, a safety-conscious ladybug, as she teaches her five-year-old friend Jesse that when his gut feeling is telling him something’s not right, he’s allowed to say ‘no’ and ask adults he trusts for help.
“This is a difficult subject and a lot of parents have difficulty talking about this and it’s not that they don’t care – parents care hugely about their children’s safety – but [they] don’t know how to talk about it,” Frank said. “And so what I’ve tried to create is really a safe way of having this big conversation.”
Frank compares educating young children about inappropriate touching with teaching them how to cross the street safely. He said crossing the street can be dangerous, but instead of scaring children, they’re taught to hold hands and look both ways.
“Slowly, step-by-step, they learn in a safe way how to cross the street and it’s exciting when they can do that and most parents don’t panic over that,” Frank said. “We can do the same thing with touch and so that’s really the point of these books is to create a common language about safety and to do it in a way that’s fun.”
The book series came out of a sexual abuse awareness and prevention project he and some other counsellors created for the Nanaimo Ladysmith school district in 2005 called the Sharing Safety Program. The program ran at Bayview Elementary School for four years before Frank and his team were asked to train more school counsellors to present the program across the district. He said “the kids just loved it.”
“The reason they loved it, particularly for the younger children, was that we were bringing in stuffed animals, creating lovable characters, creating skits. There was some humour in them but in the humour we were able to teach them things and the kids really responded,” he said.
Frank has since retired and he said writing the Lady B books was a way for him to continue his work supporting children. He said teaching children about consent and personal boundaries and that it’s OK to get help when they feel uncomfortable will prepare them for the future.
“Boundaries are so important and our bodies are very much part of our boundaries and when we can be in charge of our own boundaries and when children can learn that, they’re going to be much safer later on in life,” he said. “And then if anything should happen, hopefully it never does, but if something should happen they will know how to deal with it and be able to get the help and support that they need.”
Lady B Spots Trouble is available at Windowseat Books, 309C Wesley St., and online at www.allowedtosayno.com/bookstore.