Not in Room 204: Breaking the Silence of Abuseby Shannon Riggs, Jaime Zollars
At a report card conference, Mrs. Salvador tells Regina's mom that Regina is doing a great job, but that she is very quiet. Regina thinks of the secret she keeps so quietthe one even her mom doesn't know, about the secret things her father does.
After a lesson on stranger danger, Mrs. Salvador tells her students that if someone touches a child "in ways they shouldn't," she knows exactly what to do. Quiet Regina Lillian Hadwig has a secret, and she sits up and takes notice, eventually confiding in her teacher. The illustrations are warm and inviting and provide an imaginative subtext through the other students' antics. The message of the book is a comforting one, that at least some adults can establish a safe environment, be consistent, and always know what to do. However, when the teacher asks Lillian if she has been touched inappropriately, the child nods, and the teacher again promises that she knows "exactly what to do." Leading a child in a disclosure of sexual abuse is a questionable practice and, as any mandated reporter knows, once a report is filed, what follows is out of the teacher's hands entirely. An introductory note reminds readers that prevention "is an adult's job" and provides a link to Darkness to Light, an excellent organization that teaches adults how to prevent and respond to child abuse. The audience for this picture book may well be adults, who will be reassured and hopefully inspired by Mrs. Salvador's example of firm boundaries lovingly enforced. In the right hands, this story could open discussion with children about sexual abuse or let a child know that there are adults who will listen. For slightly younger children, Peter Ledwon's Mia's Secret (Tundra, 2006) encourages telling without leading the child or implying promises that cannot be kept.
Carolyn LehmanCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
Not in Room 204
By Shannon Riggs, Jaime Zollars
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 2007 Shannon Riggs
All rights reserved.
On the first day of school, Mrs. Salvador said, "At home, when your parents tell you to clean your rooms, you might shove dirty socks under the bed and heap toys in the closet, and you might get away with it."
The children in Room 204 smiled secret smiles.
"But not in Room 204. Here we keep our desks neat."
Some of the children fidgeted, but Regina Lillian Hadwig sat up straight.
"In other places, you might get away with less than your best work," Mrs. Salvador said. "But not in Room 204."
Jack Galvin and Trevor Jensen smirked.
"In Room 204, if you turn in work that isn't your best, I'll give it right back to you and you'll have to do it over."
Jack whispered, "I think I'll move my desk into the hall."
Mrs. Salvador heard. "Mr. Galvin, you might get away with whispering wisecracks to your neighbor in other classrooms, but not in Room 204."
"In other places," she continued, "you might get away with name-calling. You might even call someone 'stupid' or 'dumb.' Not in Room 204. In Room 204, no one is stupid. I've seen your report card from last year. I know."
Mrs. Salvador folded her hands neatly behind her back.
In October, in Room 204, Amanda Zadatowski ate Brenda Levitt's Halloween candy without asking.
Mrs. Salvador sent a note home to Amanda's mother.
In November, the class went on a field trip to the aquarium. Just loud enough for everyone to hear, Melanie Dickson said that the tour guide looked like a whale. Regina Lillian Hadwig shook her head with disapproval.
Mrs. Salvador said, "Miss Dickson, children in other classes might get away with making rude remarks, but not the students of Room 204. The students of Room 204 show respect. Please apologize, and then you will be my partner for the rest of the day."
Mrs. Salvador led Melanie to the front of the line.
Report-card conferences were at the end of the term. Regina Lillian Hadwig took a seat beside her mother.
"Regina, I am very pleased with all of your written work. You always do your best. You are a very bright girl," Mrs. Salvador said.
She cocked her head to one side and pursed her lips the way she did when she was grading papers at her desk and thought no one was looking. Regina Lillian Hadwig was always looking.
"Are you quiet at home like you are in school?" Mrs. Salvador asked.
Excerpted from Not in Room 204 by Shannon Riggs, Jaime Zollars. Copyright © 2007 Shannon Riggs. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Many kids' books dealing with serious issues are hampered by stilted, awkward, and heavy-handed writing. But author Shannon Riggs handles the weighty topic of sexual abuse with a deft, light touch. She says exactly what needs to be said, no more and no less. And Jaime Zollars' illustrations complement the text wonderfully. So don't judge this book by its cover (which is kind of lackluster), because Riggs and Zollars have created a real gem here. It's not just a good 'issue book.' It's a good book. Period.
I have two young girls and found childhood sexual abuse a difficult but necessary subject to discuss with them. I came across this book, which allowed me to discuss stranger danger as well as danger than can from from a friend, babysitter, and relative. It's not graphic at all and has a wonderful story line leading up to the issue at hand. Thank you Riggs and Zollars!