, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 146-167

‘Keep Telling Until Someone Listens’: Understanding Prevention Concepts in Children’s Picture Books Dealing with Child Sexual Abuse

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Abstract

Children’s picture books dealing with the topic of child sexual abuse appeared in the 1980s with the aim of addressing the need for age-appropriate texts to teach sexual abuse prevention concepts and to provide support for young children who may be at risk of or have already experienced sexual abuse. Despite the apparent potential of children’s picture books to convey child sexual abuse prevention concepts, very few studies have addressed the topic of child sexual abuse in children’s literature. This article critically examines a selection of 15 picture books (published in the US, Canada and Australia) for children aged 3–8 years dealing with this theme. It makes use of an established set of evaluative criteria to conduct an audit of the books’ content and applies techniques of literary discourse analysis to explain how these picture books satisfy criteria for child sexual abuse prevention. The analysis is used as a way to understand the discourses available to readers, both adults and children, on the topic of child sexual abuse. Key themes in the books include children’s empowerment and agency, and the need for persistence and hope.

Dr. Jo Lampert is a senior lecturer in the field of socio-cultural studies in the School of Cultural and Language Studies. Her PhD on children’s literature about September 11 was recently published by Routledge in 2009, and she is currently critiquing children’s books about child abuse. Alongside her work in the field of social justice and children’s literature, much of Jo’s Australian experience has been in Indigenous education, and in the area of equity and anti-racism.
Dr. Kerryann Walsh is currently a senior lecturer in the School of Early Childhood. She is an educator with a background in early years education and child protection. Her research interests include child protection, educational effects of child abuse and neglect, and the relationships between law, policy and practice in child abuse reporting.