Hey Readers — This far-flung librarian has a question I’d like to know the answer to, too! – L
I was hoping you and your readers could help me.Â I work in an English Library in Japan.Â Our patrons are expats from many different parts of the world, but primarily American.Â I have recently had a request from a patron wanting books on “Stranger Danger.” Oh how I hate that phrase. [Lenore here: Me too!]
We do have the lovely “Berenstain Bears Learn about stranger,” but I do think we need more, but not what I am seeing when I look.Â I need books that are not the “Strangers are evil”-type, but more along the lines of, “We can talk to strangers but we shouldn’t go places with them.” I am having a hard time finding some. I did find a lovely book, “Are you a Good Stranger?” but it is no longer published, which made me sad.Â If I was in the States and I would go to a books store and browse the books before buying.Â So I was wondering if you and your readers could recommend some lovely books on safety with strangers or just general safetyÂ And also if you have and book recommendations on how to talk to young children about those issues.Â I really do not want to get books that make children and parent scared to allow children to explore and play on their own.
Here’s a book that fits this query in an interesting way:
“I Don’t Want to Blow You Up!”
Although the Bible is not the kind of children’s book this person is looking for, the best story about the “kindness of strangers” is:
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. â€œTeacher,â€ he asked, â€œwhat must I do to inherit eternal life?â€
26 â€œWhat is written in the Law?â€ he replied. â€œHow do you read it?â€
27 He answered, â€œâ€˜Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mindâ€™[a]; and, â€˜Love your neighbor as yourself.â€™[b]â€
28 â€œYou have answered correctly,â€ Jesus replied. â€œDo this and you will live.â€
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, â€œAnd who is my neighbor?â€
30 In reply Jesus said: â€œA man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. â€˜Look after him,â€™ he said, â€˜and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.â€™
36 â€œWhich of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?â€
37 The expert in the law replied, â€œThe one who had mercy on him.â€
Jesus told him, â€œGo and do likewise.â€
Statistically, you should teach kids to ONLY talk to strangers. It’s the people they know that usually abuse them.
Right on, Paul!
@Paul: But the more a kid talks to strangers, the more people she knows, so the bigger the chance that one of them…?!!!
Just kidding 😀
My mom bought this exact book for my girls. I read it through once and tossed it.
There’s even a part where the little bears are taught not to trust grownups they know. The example is what if a grownup they know well (and is a woman so no gender stereotyping at least) offers them a ride home. Don’t say yes thank you because without the Parents express permission and supervision she is still seen as a stranger.
Personally I never really liked The Berenstain Bears. The kids were always over the top rude, or mean, or messy, or whatever the lesson was.
This sounds like an opportunity for an author … if you happen to know one.
The only younger-kids book I ever read (or rather, had read to me by a neighbor lady as at age four I couldn’t yet read script) were the original Babar the Elephant books. Babar travels widely and meets many helpful strangers.
Said neighbor lady (whom I’d gone wandering down the street and met all by myself) was my best friend when I was 4 and 5 years old. Thank you, Flora, for being a good friend!
A little past your age group but; The Boxcar Children is excellent. Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series. All these books are about self reliant kids that need to function on their own, or are not afraid to ask the adults around them for help. I don’t think you will find ‘modern’ books addressing what you want, especially for this age group.
pretty much any children’s book that wasn’t written in the last 10-15 year I’d guess…
Can’t remember a single book when I was a child that was in any way alarmist about strangers…
Well, apart from Hansel and Gretel and the likes of those of course.
When my son was 7 or 8 years old, we took a trip to the “big city” together. We were on the boat to get there, and he saw some ladies with ice cream. “Can I have some?” he asked me. I told him to go over to the ladies and ask them where they got it. He didn’t want to do it. He said they were strangers. I told him it was fine, but he insisted it wasn’t safe. Finally, I convinced him, told him to go over, wait for a break in their conversation, and ask politely.
Then, once he was enjoying his ice cream, I told him to watch me the whole weekend and notice how many strangers I talk to. “I don’t know anyone in the big city, so I will have to talk to lots and lots of strangers. That’s what life is about in our culture. I talk to strangers every day.”
Our car got towed, and instead of taking a taxi to the impound lot, I decided we should take the long, complex route via public transit. It was great! We talked to strangers there, too. When we got to the neighbourhood where the lot was, it didn’t look too nice. I didn’t know exactly where to go. I told my son to pick out someone to ask. He picked a young couple riding bicycles. I told him that was an excellent choice, asked him why that was who he chose, lauded his judgement.
So maybe that could be the plot of the book. Parent and child go to a place they don’t know anyone, and kid says “I can’t talk to strangers,” and the parent shows the child just how many strangers we talk to each day…
Sadly, I can’t really think of any that teach kids to trust their instincts etc.
One that I remember from my childhood was “My Mother is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World.” A girl about 5 is lost and she asks strangers to help her find her mom. They are all very helpful, but she can’t describe her mom other than to say she’s the most beautiful woman in the world. Actually the mom is very plain and plump, but in the end they are reunited and everyone agrees that the mom is the most beautiful woman in the world. 🙂 Very sweet and it reinforces that most strangers are good and helpful.
How about “Ernie Gets Lost” from the Sesame Street series. Ernie gets lost in a big store and talks to a salesperson who helps him find his friend Maria. It even stresses that he was told ahead of time to find someone who works in the store if he got lost. Never once does it say “don’t talk to strangers” but there are strangers you can trust.
What about the cat in the hat? He’s a stranger, takes kids out, gets them in trouble but yet is able to get them back home before they get in serious trouble.
That cat always bothered me. Cats with hats is just unnatural.
“Well, apart from Hansel and Gretel and the likes of those of course.” … Which would imply that caution of the other has been something we have always tried to instil in kids.
Chicken little is actually a pretty good one on not going off with strangers as the animals aren’t really in trouble until they allow the wolf to lure them off their path. Pinocchio gets himself in to trouble the same way. Of course any parent could look at those and say… the characters should never have talked to the foxes. Stranger=bad=don’t talk to strangers. That’s the rotten brilliance of the stranger danger mantra. You can rewind the danger point in the old fairy tales, making “don’t talk to strangers” look like common sense. And many of those characters might have been better off running from the villain. But you don’t see what life would have looked like for them to always be afraid of every stranger. So I don’t think you see many little kids books that blatantly say… “Yes, please talk to strangers. But don’t go with them.” Because until ‘stranger danger’ came along the idea of running away from someone who talked to you would have been unspeakably rude.
HOw about My Side of the Mountain? Hatchet? Harry Potter? I know you are looking for books for a younger audience but I read the first two books to my kids when they were still preschool, and started the HP series when my son was in kindergarten. Why look for baby books? After all, the kids that age won’t be reading them.
Ms. Librarian, perhaps you could steer parents toward books that teach kids how to navigate the world safely. Mr. Tuckett, Wizard of Oz, Little Women, Heidi, Little House on the Prairie. The library is FULL of those stories.
anonymous this time….I loved your story of the trip to the city. Very cool way to teach your son those lessons, without them seeming like lessons.
How ironic the OP, mentions that most of her patrons are Americans who moved to Japan. And from my guess, they are the ones asking for these types of books. What about Japanese people? Do they go in and ask for books on “Strangers”? Oh, the western mentality.
For one thing, why does one need a book on how to deal with “Strangers”? Have people really gotten so disconnected with their community, and society as a whole, that they need instructions on how to teach their children about strangers? Do they feel they lack the confidence and knowledge that they learned themselves growing up? I’d like to think most adults, if not ALL, grew up learning street smarts. I know I did. As well as every kid I grew up with.
If people can’t trust their parenting skills, or common sense. That they need to rely on “experts” and other sources, perhaps they should re-think about having children, until they can get a grip on themselves. lol
Children’s books are for enjoyment, and education. Not fear mongering. Imo, children should read books to enhance their imagination, and creativity. To help them in their reading skills and vocabulary. To give them a better outlook of life.
As parents, it should be OUR job, to teach them the practical side of life. And trust me, after the age of 3, they are never too young to learn and understand the basics of life in a community. They should hear about how to deal with people they don’t know from their parents. Not books intended to take them away from this world, and into a new world of fantasy, and imagination. Why would we want to constantly subject our children to unsubstantiated fears. That everywhere they look, it’s always “stranger danger”. That is such a terrible way to grow up.
Instead of “stranger danger”, we should start educating on TRUST. Who should we trust. Who should we reserve trust for. And who should we not trust. And the actions we may or are required to do in different situations regarding trust. Again, children are much smarter, resourceful, attentive, and resilient than most give them credit for. In a lot of situations I’ve seen, they are even smarter and wiser than some of the adults around them. Yet, it’s these adults that are telling them what to do, and what to believe. Kind of like a person with a 150 IQ, getting told “how to” by a “C” average student. lol
That said, I was a big fan of The Adventures of Curious George books, as well as the Dr. Seuss. The original ones, not the ones created in this decade. Babar books were fun to read too. I’d even throw in some Nancy Drew, and Hardy Boys books. Teach them about adventure, and how to solve mysteries and escape evil clutches. Other great books to enhance the mind (not put fear in them), are “which way books”. Not sure if they make them anymore though. Helps children make decisions, and see the outcomes of those decisions. Even comic books are better than “stranger danger” books. They at least teach them about heroism. To be good, and help others. That they can over come and triumph over bad guys. And even be able to understand between good guys and bad guys, without putting fear in them.
I remember a children’s book, but I can’t remember the title, for the life of me. It’s about a little boy named Benno, and his father takes him to the fair, and gives him a dollar to spend (it’s a really old book, so a dollar would have been worth much more back then). Anyway, Benno’s father warns him to choose wisely, because a dollar won’t go very far, but Benno spends the dollar right away on a sombrero……and then walks around the fair wearing it, where various people ask to borrow the hat to use for various things (a fan, a container to carry water, etc., etc., etc.), and Benno lends his hat in exchange for a ride on the Ferris Wheel, a snack and a drink, admission to a magic show, et cetera. When Benno returns to his father, wearing his new hat, his father scolds him at first for being wasteful, but then Benno tells the story of what happened, and all is well.
Anyway, back to the issue at hand–may I suggest a free-range solution to this free-range problem? Why not write and draw your own picture book, either for, or with, your child, who could be the main character in the story? That would drive the lesson home much better than if it was about cartoon bears who live in a hollowed-out tree.
P.S., I missed that the OP was a children’s librarian, and not a parent. In that case, I think my D.I.Y. solution could still work, but on a larger scale. Maybe the OP could host a “stranger safety” lesson at the library, and the session could be an interactive talk with games, etc., about “safe strangers,” and talking with strangers but not going off with them, et cetera, and the session could conclude with a “write and draw your own story about stranger safety” activity. It could be done in an age-appropriate way, with fill-in-the-blanks for little kids (and the kids could even cut and glue the words they wanted if they couldn’t write), so each story would be along the lines of, “One day, [Name] went to the [Place] with [Other Person]. They got separated, and [Name] was very scared, but remembered the lesson he/she learned from the nice librarian. [Name] walked up to a [Safe Stranger of Some Kind], and everything got sorted out. The End.”
Anyone else is tired of kiddy books that are basically textbooks in disguise and try to teach X instead of being just a fun story? Most kids books here are incredibly obvious attempts to teach them moral lesson or counting or alphabet with same lame boring story on top.
A favorite here when my boys were little was “Mike’s House” by Julia Sauer.
On their way to story time at the library, a preschool boy and his mom are running late, so mom lets him out at the curb to go in alone while she finds a parking place. His hat blows off; he chases it and gets lost. A friendly policeman and a diner waitress help him out and get him back to the library, just as his mother arrives at the door.
Copyright 1966, so certainly NOT a modern story!
I picked up a copy of “50 Dangerous Things you should let your kids do”. Awesome book. Probably not what the parents had in mind! There’s also “The dangerous book for boys” and “The daring book for girls”. The librarian should get them just on general principle. 🙂
“For one thing, why does one need a book on how to deal with ‘Strangers’? Have people really gotten so disconnected with their community, and society as a whole, that they need instructions on how to teach their children about strangers?”
Sadly, Eric, yes.
Feeling Happy, Feeling Safe by Michele Elliott. Admittedly I don’t know if they’ve made it more paranoid on reprint, but my copy (from 1991) has pretty good, sane advice for when to say no, dealing with bullies, (in)appropriate touching, getting lost AND dealing with strangers.
@renee – See also “My Side of the Mountain”, “On the Far Side of the Mountain”, “Frightful’s Mountain”, “Hatchet”, and the Brian books (“The River”, “Brian’s Winter”, “Brian’s Return”, and “Brian’s Hunt”). Granted these stories are intended for an older audience, however, they are also about self-reliant kids.
I am the author of the book you are looking for.
It is called What Should You Do?
Helping Children Protect Themselves in the Twenty First Century
By Melinda Reynolds Tripp, on Amazon
It is for parents and teachers of children ages 5-13
It is a book about empowering kids to keep themselves safe, using awareness, and their instincts.
It uses real stories about children who have been able to handle an unsafe situation.
Having a plan, being aware allows the parent to let go, and allow their safe kids to play, ride their bike,
They learn that safety is not Strager Danger….safety is about empowered young people.
Slightly off the main point, but I recommend the child protection videos put out by the Boy Scouts. There is a dated but useful series on YouTube for 4th or 5th grade and older called “A Time to Tell” and a series for elementary kids called “It Happened to Me”. The former is pretty graphic, you might want to preview it and get ready to stop frequently for discussions.
The lesson is not to be afraid or avoid certain people, but to recognize danger when it arises and act accordingly. I think it strikes a good balance between prevention and reaction.
These videos will make your skin crawl. You might teach your child that is exactly the warning sign your body is sending you that something is wrong. When a kid feels that, they need to know that it’s time to get out of the situation and in many cases to let a trusted person know about it.
I watched A Time to Tell with my 11 year old son, and also told him about the times I was approached or attacked by adults and other kids and how I handled it (I wish I had told my parents!) My message to him was that he WILL find himself in these situations anytime, anywhere. It goes with the territory. Just know what to do. I plan to watch this with my 9 year old daughter as well.
Once Upon a Dragon: Stranger Safety for Kids (and Dragons) is the least alarmist book I’ve seen in this category. Jean E. Pendziwol is the author; the publisher is the Toronto-based Kids Can Press.
@Andy–The story about Benno wasn’t a textbook in disguise; I thought it was a good story. Anyway, here’s another book that teaches a (positive, Free-Range) lesson about strangers, without being so heavy-handed about it:
Melinda Tripp, your bio on Amazon says you teach “Abduction Prevention” classes. Those must be awfully brief classes, consisting of you telling the kids to go have fun on the playground…since abduction happens entirely too rarely for classes to be required. Maybe you would like to elaborate? Who abducts children and why? How frequently does it happen? How often are children abducted by strangers?
We have the Berenstein bear one and I think it is actually really good.
On “The Berenstain Bears Learn about Strangers,” there are a number of issues to consider. From what one remembers, the story involves Sister Bear being quite friendly to strangers (i.e. “Hello, Mr. Truck Driver!”) and Brother Bear is concerned. To be sure, her saying hello may not be that harmful, though it could be argued as to whether talking to a stranger might cause a young person to go off elsewhere with the same stranger. Papa Bear talks to Sister with regard to the dangers posed by strangers and this (perhaps unintentionally) causes her to worry and to see things outside as somewhat scary. On the topic of specific dangers, Papa Bear tells Sister a story about a goose being eaten by a fox after she started talking to him and he lured her into his home. Later on, Brother bear encounters an adult bear who has interesting radio-controlled model plane, and Brother almost accepts his offer to ride in his vehicle but Sister steps in and stops him. In these two cases, it could be said that the specific danger was not so much talking to a stranger but going off to a different location or a vehicle with them. There is also the aspect where if someone has an interesting item then it may be easy to forget about being careful. (Along these lines, there is the question as to whether having a friend or a sibling with them is a worthwhile way to reduce risk for a child.) The book has useful messages; for example, looks can be deceiving. It is also mentioned that most bears (and presumably people) are completely harmless but that it is important to be careful because of the few “bad apples.” Even so, the inclusion of the somewhat absolutist “Never talk to a stranger” in the list of safety rules at the end might make it hard to think of bad persons as the exception. The rules about one’s body being private and about using common sense may be more useful and easier to apply.
In the Boy Scouting program, there is “Youth Protection” material where they talk about the “three R’s” of “recognize, resist, and report” for youth to be aware of. In addition, the Scouting handbooks include a parent’s guide regarding protecting young persons from abuse, and this is not specifically about dealing with strangers. In the April 1995 issue of Boys’ Life magazine (see page 54), there is an article “Confronting Child Abuse” with information about abusive homes being a serious matter. (Note the emphasis on abuse from known persons and family members as opposed to strangers.) The article includes a “Child’s Bill of Rights” with the premise that a child is entitled to do things such as refusing inappropriate demands from adults, screaming, making a scene, or withholding sensitive information if they believe that they are in a dangerous situation.
@Emily By here I meant “where I live” not necessary book you recommended. It was slightly off-topic rant.
Almost every book in bookstore either has some agenda. I wanted to buy something nicely written by someone who commands language well and it was hard. One book teaches that, another this, that one empowers and yet another helps to deal with problems.
Good book is the one the kid will want to read over and over and very few of them have such potential. We complain that kids do not read or care about books, but why would they when we teach them to associate book with “message” instead of enjoyment.
Characters in most those books do not even have personality traits, they basically do things cause it fits what the story is supposed to teach. Compare it with characters in popular tv cartoons – they are much more lively and complex – and the kids watch the same cartoon over and over.
End of rant.
A great board book for toddlers/preschoolers on how new people can be friends and not scary is “Rainbow Fish & The Big Blue Whale” by Marcus Pfister: http://www.amazon.com/Rainbow-Fish-Big-Blue-Whale/dp/0735810095
Op here. Thank you for the awesome ideas and titles. I know I know. I hate the give me a book with a message thing too but sometimes it helps get through to kids. The thing I like about the berenstain bears book is that the mother came back and said not all strangers are bad and you can’t tell by looking at them. There is such an idea about the evil stranger and how they we imagine them looking like there evil selves. I actually taught my daughter a little about strangers using “finding nemo” and it was more because she would run away.
A lot of the parents that come to my library, an English only one mind you, are in a great part Americans that are here for two to five years. But they aren’t the only paranoid ones. We have British, Austrilain, French, Spanish, and many more and some are worse and some are very free range. The most paranoid mother was an Australian mother that had her child scared of visiting America because she was sure some would “snatch her away, dye her hair and do terrible thing to her, and she never see her mum again. Cause that happens all the time in America.” And yes the mom truly thought that.
One of my favorite kids books, and one my kids read over and over well past when they read other picture books, is “Trust Me Mom” by Angela McAllister
It seems to be out of print…unfortunately, the message that kids are capable of doing things independently and dealing with whatever challenges come their way didn’t get the audience it should have. In the story, the little boy is going on an errand to the market for the first time. Along the way he meets a witch, a monster, a ghost, three bears and some aliens, and handles them all with confidence and humor. My kids especially like the aliens part.
Good Dog, Carl
The only one which comes to mind immediately is “Because of Winn Dixie,” but I’m sure there are others.
To the person who suggested authors write such a book, sadly, free range ideas are usually *discouraged* by editors for fear that parents would be too upset that such ideas as found in all of the lovely novels listed below (exploring, talking to adults, doing things unsupervised)are being promoted to their children. I remember one pre-pub reviewer lambasted a scene in which middle schoolers were just dropped off at the movie theater, waiting for friends, and you know, not having an adult chaperone for not just the movie, but the waiting outside the theater. Thankfully, it was kept in, true to many middle schoolers experiences (I did it myself 15 years ago).
To the OP, fiction, particularly the books listed above, is a great way to build confidence in kids and the way they prefer to receive “lessons.” And if the “lesson” is not overt enough, then that just means the parent has to have a conversation with the child about what he or she is reading. THAT is what parents need, not some dry “be ware of scary strangers” didacticism.
Little Critter: Just Lost might be a good book. (Especially if it is the parent traveling to the US.) Little Critter is at the mall with his mother, stops to tie his shoe, looks up and his mother, sister and baby brother are gone. He ends up wandering to a toy store, where the clerk calls security and he goes with him to his office in the mall and waits while they page his mother. His mother as is usually the case, was upset, and Little Critter told her to not get lost again. Very cute story, worked very well with my kid who liked to wander. (I added in that he was not to leave the building, that I would stay inside looking for him if I got lost.)
Today I was talking to a teacher at our charter style school. The regular elementary school is next door, and they have just started work to build a new building. (One with real windows, I hope.) Anyhow, the teacher of elementary aged kids had talked to the principal about having the kids talk to the construction workers before the end of school, about their equipment and such. And…it turns out that the fence is NOT just to keep the kids out of the way. The workers are forbidden, in their contract, to talk to any of the kids. Even if they are with a bunch of adults. Sigh. Makes me miss the trees that they chopped down even more. (At least one would not have been in the way. Beautiful, 60 year old elm trees.)
“Max and the Dragon Shirt” might be another good book to recommend. Max’s mother send Max and his big sister Ruby to the department store to get Max a new shirt and pants. She has $10. Ruby decides to try on dresses, Max wakes up while she is out looking for another dress, and follows a girl in the same color dress. Max finds the shirt he wants, a $10 dragon shirt, and puts it on. After a bit of confusion, Ruby finds Max who is eating ice cream with some nice policemen. She has to buy the shirt because he gets food on it and they have just enough money to get back home on the bus.
Both the Max and Ruby and Little Critter books may leave the person wondering why you recommended the books…but I think that they have a better message of reaching out to others who can help you…rather than being afraid that everyone is out there to hurt you. I always tell my kids that they can talk to whomever they want…they just can’t LEAVE with them. I talk to many people, every day, that I don’t know. Why should my kids be different?
I’m not a fan of Stranger Danger, we teach a more positive Stranger Awareness approach. We give a lot information and advice on our website http://kidsbesafe.co.uk/blog
I can’t offer you a book title but we do offer an online training programme that give parents a simple series of video exercises on how to teach their children stranger awareness. As well as the video tuition, they get downloadable guides and a community forum for talking to Kids be Safe trainers and other parents. This online portal is available on the cloud, 24×7 for a very low cost of $15 for 6 months access. You can get this at http://strangerawareness.com
I just had to comment to the person that recommended “The Cat in the Hat”. lol. That story always bothered me. Isn’t the cat a ‘tricky’ person. The mom doesn’t actually believe the kids are going anywhere. The kids think she knows but she doesn’t. I bet that cat knows it, too.