Book review: Talk About Touch

by Sandra Kleven. Illustrated by Patrick Minock

Reading Level: Preschool–Grade 2

Set in a traditional Alaska Native village, Talk About Touch is an exceptionally gentle, caring story about children and parents talking about personal safety and, in particular, sexual abuse. Eric is a young boy whose father, while working with him on their snowmobile, broaches the subject of safety. He starts with a reminder about the lessons he has already taught Eric about fire and thin ice, then moves—seriously but matter-of-factly—to the topic of “touching problems.” Eric is curious and comfortable with his dad, exploring the concept of private touching, including changing diapers (Eric and his father agree that it’s not a lot of fun to change Eric’s brother Oscar’s diaper!), tickling, and doctor’s visits, as well as inappropriate touching of private parts. Meanwhile, Eric’s sister Bean is having a similar conversation with their grandmother. Both children learn the crucial basics to help protect themselves: Say no. Get away. Tell someone. Sexual abuse is not a child’s fault. More importantly, the children learn that their families are there to keep them safe and are open to talking about difficult problems…as well as working hard and having fun together.

Author Sandra Kleven and illustrator Patrick Minock make a perfect match in this lovely, spot-on story. The lessons are universal, even though the setting and cultural backdrop are unique. Parents will undoubtedly wish to emulate the kind and frank ways of Eric’s father and grandmother when they begin to talk about touch with their own children.

Social and Emotional Lessons in Talk About Touch

Talk About Touch is an ideal companion to the Second Step Child Protection Unit as well as the original Talking About Touching personal safety program, reinforcing the skills and safety rules young children should be taught to help keep them safe from inappropriate touch, including Recognizing (Is it safe? What’s the rule?), Reporting (Tell an adult), and Refusing (Say words that mean no).

The best way for parents and teachers to use this book (which includes notes to parents and teachers as well as a list of child advocacy resources) is, simply, to read it aloud to the children in their care, to encourage questions, and to help them practice saying no and telling an adult.