Starting a Child Protection Bookclub

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CC image courtesy of Flickr, Christopher.
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Christopher.

In a recent article, GRACE’s Boz Tchividjian makes the suggestion that organizations begin a child protection bookclub. This way, individuals in an organization can become better equipped and empowered to understand and respond to potential child abuse in their communities. Tchividjian writes,

It is so important that those who want to protect children become educated on the variety of issues related to the abuse of children. This doesn’t require us to become child abuse “experts.” It doesn’t even require attendance at a fancy (and expensive) conference. It does require that we invest some time reading some good books on the subject. One idea is to encourage others who have expressed an interest in taking these steps to read a few books on the subject and meet to discuss each. Yes, a child-protection bookclub!

I think this is a wonderful idea for homeschoolers, especially considering how much homeschoolers love books and bookclubs. Organizing a child protection bookclub in your homeschool group is a great way to increase child protection knowledge among your community’s families.

Tchividjian recommends a number of books to start with: Anna Salter’s Predators, Christa Brown’s This Little Light, Diane Langberg’s On the Threshold of Hope, and his own Protecting Children from Abuse in the Church. We are including some of those books in our suggestions below but also adding and expanding to his suggestions. Some of the books are religious; some are not. Books that specifically espouse a religious message are marked with a **.

We also included a section specifically for kids, with children’s books that help children understand basic issues about safety and consent and how to respond to other children or adults who might want to hurt them. (Note that the book descriptions below are from Amazon; we did not write them.)

Adult Books

 Let the Children Come **

Description: Are children safe at your church? Have you taken any precautions to ensure they won’t be abused? Do you know for certain that volunteers who work with children don’t have criminal backgrounds? If you aren’t sure how to answer those questions, you need Let the Children Come, by Jeanette Harder, who teaches social work at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Through Let the Children Come churches and/or ministries can learn how to create procedures and policies to keep children safe from abuse, and to help families break the cycle of abuse.

Safe Sanctuaries **

Description: Safe Sanctuaries contains foundational guidance to help your congregation develop and implement a substantive plan of child abuse prevention. Unique features include: (1) A step-by-step plan for developing policies and procedures to prevent child abuse (2) Forms for screening workers, checking references, reporting suspected abuse (3) A suggested training session for all persons who work with children and youth (4) A sample worship service celebrating the adoption of policies/procecures. 

 Creating Safer Organisations: Practical Steps to Prevent the Abuse of Children by Those Working With Them

Description: An accessible resource to help those in organisational settings ensure that they have taken all possible steps to safeguard the children and young people they are responsible for: • Draws on up to date research with people who have committed sexual offences against children in organisational settings, and new developments in interviewing approaches; • Details recent cases to illustrate points about institutional failures in protecting children; • Highlights the fact that those who sexually offend against children are a diverse and heterogeneous population, and the approaches taken to protect children must address the range of possible risks; • Makes a firm commitment to the importance of multi-agency and inter-disciplinary collaboration and is relevant in both community and residential settings; • Offers clear and practical messages and measures for organisations to act on.

On Guard **

Description: Since Sandusky and the scandals in the Catholic Church, the issue of sexual abuse has shifted to the forefront of our collective mind. Many churches are poised for action but unsure of what action to take. In On Guard, Deepak Reju examines why child predators target churches and offers eleven straightforward strategies to protect children from abuse and to help young victims recover if it does happen. While On Guard does provide practical help for building a child protection policy, it provides much more. Full of pastoral wisdom, On Guard recognizes that the church’s response to abuse must be more comprehensively in line with her calling than a simple legal policy or clinical analysis. On Guard moves church staff and leaders beyond fearful awareness to prayerful preparedness with an actionable plan.

 Betrayal

Description: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, the story behind this groundbreaking book–one of the most significant works of investigative journalism since Woodward and Bernstein’s reporting on Watergate–has been brought brilliantly to life on the screen in the major new movie Spotlight, winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture. Here are the devastating revelations that triggered a crisis within the Catholic Church. Here is the truth about the scores of abusive priests who preyed upon innocent children and the cabal of senior Church officials who covered up their crimes. Here is the trail of “hush money” that the Catholic Church secretly paid to buy victims’ silence–deeds that left millions of the faithful in the U.S. and around the world shocked, angry, and confused. Here as well is a vivid account of the ongoing struggle, as Catholics confront their Church and call for sweeping change.

 Breaking Their Will

Description: This revealing, disturbing, and thoroughly researched book exposes a dark side of faith that most Americans do not know exists or have ignored for a long time—religious child maltreatment. After speaking with dozens of victims, perpetrators, and experts, and reviewing a myriad of court cases and studies, the author explains how religious child maltreatment happens. She then takes an in-depth look at the many forms of child maltreatment found in religious contexts, including biblically-prescribed corporal punishment and beliefs about the necessity of “breaking the wills” of children; scaring kids into faith and other types of emotional maltreatment such as spurning, isolating, and withholding love; pedophilic abuse by religious authorities and the failure of religious organizations to support the victims and punish the perpetrators; and religiously-motivated medical neglect in cases of serious health problems. 

 Predators

What motivates sexual abusers? Why are so few caught? Drawing on the stories of abusers, Anna C. Salter shows that sexual predators use sophisticated deception techniques and rely on misconceptions surrounding them to evade discovery. Arguing that even the most knowledgeable among us can be fooled, Salter dispels the myths about sexual predators and gives us the tools to protect our families and ourselves.

 Protecting Children From Abuse in the Church **

Description: How do we protect the children in our Christian community from sexual offenders? We are becoming more and more aware of the prevalence of child abuse, both in society at large and in the church. We want to protect children in our community from abuse, but we don t always know the best ways to go about that. From his years of experience as a child abuse prosecutor, Boz Tchividjian unpacks the dynamics of a church environment that allows perpetrators to thrive and offers constructive help for educating and training your church to recognize and deal with potential abuse. Using biblical principles and the example of Jesus, he shows you how to cultivate an attitude and environment in your church that provides safety and protection for these young ones.

This Little Light **

Description: In this groundbreaking memoir and exposé, Christa Brown tells the story of clergy sex abuse and cover-ups in the largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. As she shares her journey from trusting church girl to tenacious advocate for children’s safety, Brown shines a light on the patterns of preacher-predators and the collusion of evangelical leaders. This Little Light speaks of the unspeakable, and in doing so, testifies to the transformative power of truth-telling.

Children’s Books

Your Body Belongs to You

Description: In simple, reassuring language, the author explains that a child’s body is his or her own; that it is all right for kids to decline a friendly hug or kiss, even from someone they love; and that you can still be friends even if you don’t want a hug now.

No Means No!

Description: ‘No Means No!’ is a children’s picture book about an empowered little girl who has a very strong and clear voice in all issues, especially those relating to her body and personal boundaries. This book can be read to children from 3 to 9 years. It is a springboard for discussions regarding children’s choices and their rights. The ‘Note to the Reader’ at the beginning of the book and the ‘Discussion Questions’ on the final pages, guide and enhance this essential discussion. It is crucial that our children, from a very young age, are taught to have a clear, strong voice in regards to their rights — especially about their bodies. In this way, they will have the confidence to speak up when they are unhappy or feel uncomfortable in any situation.

It’s MY Body

Description: Preschool children can learn safe boundaries, how to distinguish between “good” and “bad” touches, and how to respond appropriately to unwanted touches. This is a powerful book for enhancing self-esteem. Parenting Press’s bestseller!

God Made All of Me **

Description: It’s easy to convey the message to children that their bodies or particular parts of their bodies are shameful. This misconception fuels confusion, embarrassment, and secrecy, and often prevents children from recognizing or reporting sexual abuse. God Made All of Me is a simply-told, beautifully-illustrated story to help families talk about these sensitive issues with two- to eight-year-old children. Because the private parts of our bodies are private, the home is the ideal environment where a child should learn about his or her body and how it should be treated by others. God Made All of Me starts from the fundamental truth that God created everything and applies that truth to kids and their bodies. It equips parents to talk with both boys and girls about their bodies and to help them understand the difference between the appropriate and inappropriate touch of others. God Made All of Me allows families to build a first line of defense against sexual abuse in the safety of their own homes.

Please Tell!

Description: Written and illustrated by a young girl who was sexually molested by a family member, this book reaches out to other children in a way that no adult can. Jessie’s words carry the message, “It’s o.k. to tell; help can come when you tell.” This book is an excellent tool for therapists, counselors, child protection workers, teachers, and parents dealing with children affected by sexual abuse. Jessie’s story adds a sense of hope for what should be, and the knowledge that the child protection system can work for children. Simple, direct, and from the heart, Jessie gives children the permission and the courage to deal with sexual abuse.


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Author: R.L. Stollar

R.L. Stollar is the Executive Director of Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out.

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