Book Review: Not in Room 204

By Shannon Riggs. Illustrated by Jaime Zollars.

Reading Level: Kindergarten through Grade 3

Regina Lillian Hadwig is a well-behaved student, but her quietness masks a secret she hasn't even told her mother. It's not until her teacher, Mrs. Salvador, takes time during a class unit on stranger danger to say that “it's not always strangers who touch children in ways they shouldn't be touched. Usually, it's someone the child knows” that Regina realizes there's something she can do about her terrible problem. And when Mrs. Salvador tells the class that she would know “exactly what to do” if a student told her he or she had a touching problem, Regina finally works up the courage to reveal her secret: that her father has been touching her inappropriately.

Not in Room 204  is a good addition to any classroom during National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and at any other time of the year. Both children and adults can learn from its straightforward messages. Mrs. Salvador models a caring, no-nonsense teaching style, providing her students with clear boundaries about what is acceptable in the classroom and beyond. Regina is believable as a frightened child who has no idea what to do about her problem, but who opens up to an adult she knows she can trust – and finds the help she needs.

Not in Room 204 is a suitable supplement to the Second Step program's Child Protection Unit. The lessons in this unit target most of the same issues brought up in the book:

  • Adults should keep children safe.
  • Safe touches make you feel cared for and loved.
  • You can say words that mean no to any kind of touch you don't want.
  • A person should never touch your private body parts except to keep you healthy.
  • Pay attention to uncomfortable feelings in your body.
  • Never keep secrets about touching.
  • It's never too late to report a broken touching rule.

The most important message Regina receives from her teacher is that telling a trusted adult about her problem can help make the problem stop. On the very last page, young readers see Regina smiling for the first time. They know that she is relieved and that her burden has been lifted. Adult readers know Regina has a long, sometimes challenging journey ahead of her, but that it has indeed begun.