In the wake of rising child sexual abuse in the country, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) will incorporate a primer on good touch and bad touch in the dust jackets of all their school textbooks from next year. But you can begin the conversation much earlier at home. After all, forewarned is forearmed:
My Little Body Book: Keeping Ourselves Safe
Written and Illustrated by: Shruti Singhal
Young Zubaan, `225, Appropriate for: 5+
Does our physical well-being affect our self-esteem and can we bolster our confidence through simple acts of care for our health, both physical and emotional? Shruti Singhal’s board book that came out in 2015 was the first one of its kind to talk to very young children about their bodies, the importance of consent, good and bad touch, and, personal hygiene. Told through the story of Avni and Vihaan, the book eases young readers into the basic concept of gender identities – the difference in male and female anatomies, our exclusive right over our bodies and why it is perfectly alright to expect others to respect our decision if a touch makes us uncomfortable. The illustrations are basic, but the book touches upon all those things that, as parents and teachers of toddlers, we can hardly afford to put off for a later date.
The Watch Out Series: No Touch
N Krishna; Illustration by Ayesha Sadr and Ishaan Dasgupta
Scholastic, `199, Appropriate for: 3+
This recent publication from Scholastic, the first in a series, takes the conversation further, explaining why a predator is not always a stranger — it could be a family member, a neighbour or a teacher, and that, often, a sexual predator’s main ammunition is secrecy. Sargam is a young girl who fancies herself as a detective. What do her deductions tell her when she comes to know that her friend has been sworn into secrecy by a man, who touches her in a way that makes her feel icky? Like any good detective, Sargam knows the man is up to no good and she encourages her friend to confide in a family member and to speak up and make her discomfort public if such demands are made of her. There’s also a very useful distinction about what constitutes “bad” touch to help children understand the boundaries of their body.
Shareer ki Jaankari
Zubaan, Appropriate for: 10+
A seminal book brought out by what was then Kali for Women (co-founded by Urvashi Butalia and Ritu Menon), Shareer ki Jaankari (About the Body) was put together by 75 women from rural Rajasthan in the late Eighties, and was among the earliest books to begin the conversation around the body. Designed in a visual format, using diagrams and flaps, it takes readers through the changes male and female bodies undergo and how they are linked to our notions of selfhood. Now translated into several Indian languages, including Bengali, Hindi and Oriya, it is almost exclusively distributed through NGOs.
The Red Book: What You Want to Know About Yourself
Tarshi, `300, Appropriate for: 10-14
Delhi-based NGO Tarshi came up with a series of books (The Red Book, The Blue Book, The Yellow Book and The Orange Book) on sex education meant for pre-teens, teens and for parents and educators. Of these, The Red Book, aimed for children in their pre-teens, has a section on good and bad touch that takes them through the very complicated emotional and physical implication of abuse, besides talking about puberty and the physical changes it brings about and how our body image affects our self-esteem. This bilingual series, available in both Hindi and English, is intuitively and humorously written, encouraging children to engage and ask questions about all the things they want to know but don’t know who to ask.
Top International Picks:
It’s My Body, by Lory Freeman Girard
Illustrated by Carol Deach (Parenting Press, 1982)
Appropriate for: 3-8
I Said No! by Zack and Kimberly King
Illustrated by Sue Rama, (Boulden Publishing, 2008)
Appropriate for: 4+
Your Body Belongs to You by Cornelia Spelman
Illustrated by Teri Weidner (Albert Whitman & Company, 1997)
Appropriate for: 4-8
Do You Have A Secret? (Let’s Talk About It!) by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos,
Illustrated by Marta Fabrega (Barron’s Educational Series, 2005)
Appropriate for: 6-9