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Safeguarding - Child Protection Conference - Encouraging Children to Speak Out

Posted by admin on May 8, 2017

Safeguarding – let’s get the message out there

Here’s a question: how do we teach young children about what secrets are good and what secrets are bad, give them the confidence to speak out about things that are troubling them, but not scare them?  As a parent, a school governor with responsibility for safeguarding and a former church safeguarding coordinator this is a question I have pondered often and I am sure I am not alone.  Too often children are groomed in an attempt by the perpetrator of the abuse to stop them speaking out and as a society I believe we are still not bold enough in talking about this topic with children in an appropriate manner in order to protect them.

I do not think anyone could claim to have the complete answer to my question above, but here at Poems and Pictures Christina’s passion for improving things in this area lead to her writing a book to go some way to doing that.  A year of research showed that there were no books for four to seven year olds that addressed this issue in a manner appropriate to their understanding.  Abusers target children of any age and we should not try to hide from this issue and pretend it doesn’t happen to younger children, it does.  Using public support from Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform for creative projects, and her own money Christina wrote and published Share Some Secrets.  Illustrator Ric Lumb provided the carefully crafted pictures which ensure the story is not at all graphic in tackling this sensitive subject.  Christina carefully worded the story to make it not only appropriate for the age range, but to allow those reading the book to the child to use everyday language that they themselves would also feel comfortable with.  The book received immediate recognition when it was entered in the spring collection 2016 of the People’s Book Prize in the children’s category.  It made it to the 2016 final.

To ensure that the book reached as wide an audience as possible and those that needed it most, Christina forged partnerships with both the NSPCC and Barnardo’s.  The NSPCC endorsed the book that reinforces the behaviour promoted by their Underwear Rule campaign and placed it in their library.  One hundred copies also went out through the charity’s Schools Service.  In a corporate partnership with Barnardo’s a special edition was produced for their 150th anniversary and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book went to the charity.  Further endorsements followed from teachers, parents, children and safeguarding consultants, such as Ann Marie Christian.  Christina also had the privilege of being invited to meet Dame Esther Rantzen when she visited The NSPCC’s Leeds base as part of Childline’s 30th anniversary celebrations.

Christina’s passion for getting the message across to as many children as possible hasn’t stopped since the initial publication and partnerships.  Last summer I was asked by Christina to translate Share Some Secrets into Spanish.  This was an interesting project as the original book is written in rhyme, but it is often difficult to replicate rhyme in translation.  The most important part of the book is its message, so we decided that must take priority over more stylistic matters.  Compartamos Algunos Secretos, the Spanish title, is awaiting publication and we are looking forward to seeing how it fares in a new market for Poems and Pictures.

The translation isn’t the only exciting ongoing development with Share Some Secrets.  On 18 October last year Christina met a group of students studying animation at Sheffield Hallam University, who will be turning Share Some Secrets into an animation.  Headed by senior lecturer Melvyn Ternan as Creative Director the group of six students have been working hard since October.  Christina visited Sheffield to record the voices in March and we can’t wait to see the finished animation.

With arrests and trials still happening in the most high-profile child exploitation scandal in the UK, that of Rotherham, it is important that we do not rest in the mission to ensure that children, as well as their parents, carers and teachers, have the tools they need to prevent child abuse happening or stop it in its tracks at an early stage.  We have a long way to go to achieve this aim, but each step along the way is vital to improving outcomes for all children and preserving childhood as the special time it should be.

Rebecca Thomas, Editor

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