Jayneen Sanders on Body Safety Education in children’s books

In recognition of National Child Protection Week (4 – 10 September) we chat with Jayneen Sanders – an experienced primary school teacher, author and publisher who actively advocates for sexual abuse prevention education.


Tell us why you decided to write children’s books that address personal safety.

I have three daughters so when they were very young I naturally taught them that their body was their body and no-one had the right to touch it in an unsafe way. I was quite shocked when I spoke to to other parents and teachers that they were not teaching this form of education. I am not a survivor of sexual abuse but as a teacher and a mother I felt we needed to do more to protect our children from childhood sexual abuse. The statistics are staggering: some estimates place the incidence as high as 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys being sexually abused before their 18th birthday (Aust. Institute of Criminology, 1993) and that 85% of children know the perpetrator (NSW Commission for Children & Young People, 2009). So I felt quite driven to do something to reduce these horrifying stats. I also realised the threat to children was not the stranger in the park but the abusers were from their own family circle and community! And that sexual predators not only groom children they groom the whole family.

When my children reached school age, I asked their primary school to implement Body Safety Education and my request was ignored. People were very uncomfortable with the conversation. I decided right then to use my skills as a writer to author a book to help parents discuss this important topic with children in an age-appropriate way. Prevention education is simple but once a child is being sexually abused it becomes very complex, damaging and life-changing. Body Safety Education is the key! I also write books to empower children and to provide them a voice, so they have a say about their body.

What is the best response you’ve had to one of your books?

No Means No! is now on Youtube in Auslan (for deaf children) so I am very proud of that. The response I get the most about Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept is children just ‘get it’ and the message is embedded long after the story is finished. I also love when children pick this story as their story of choice at bedtime!

We love how Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept is written like a fable as it makes it so accessible and appealing for children. What gave you this idea?

We all love fairy tales and fables and they always have a moral or a message that so often stays with us. I wanted to write this story as a fable so I could get a very difficult message across in a form that was not too ‘real’ for a child. Bravery is key in this story, the bravery to tell. Knights are always brave so having a little knight as my main character was perfect. Also fables are timeless. So in fifty years time this story and its message will still be valid.

As well as being an author, you have a lot of experience working with schools as a teacher, counsellor and more. What is the best advice you have for schools hoping to create an environment that encourages open discussion of personal safety concerns?

Teach Body Safety Education to all children in your care and reinforce the message in teachable moments throughout the day. This form of education is so important more than educators often realise. It can make all the difference to a child’s life.

You’ve worked with different illustrators across your books – who would you love to work with next?

Shaun Tan, Stephen Michael King or Alison Lester! I am forever hopeful! :)

It seems as though your role as an advocate for personal safety go hand-in-hand with your role as a children’s book author – how do the two roles shape one another?

My books are a hybrid. They are a cross between a children’s book and a teaching tool for parents and educators. Children are such visual learners so empowering messages can be easily channelled through children’s picture books. I also provide discussion questions for parents and educators so the child can participate in the story and the learning I wish to occur.

This week is National Child Protection Week – how can people best get involved?

Please ask your school, daycare centre or kindergarten to teach Body Safety Education. Let other parents know that you teach Body safety and the reason why it is so important. Please encourage other to do the same. I have a number of blogs on this subject and free resources for parents and teachers on our website including free downloadable posters people could share with others.


National Child Protection Week invites all Australians to play their part to promote the safety and wellbeing of children and young people. You can learn more about the week and how to get involved here.

 Special price
Let's Talk about Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect

Let’s Talk about Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect

Sarah Jennings, Jayneen Sanders

$14.95Buy now

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 Special priceLet's Talk about Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect

Let’s Talk about Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect

Sarah Jennings, Jayneen Sanders

This book explores consent and respect with children especially in relation to body boundaries, both theirs and others. A child growing up knowing they have a right to their own personal space, gives that child ownership and...

$14.95Buy now

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How Big Are Your Worries Little Bear?

How Big Are Your Worries Little Bear?

Jayneen Sanders, Stephanie Fizer Coleman

Little Bear is a worrier. He worries about everything! But with Mama Bear's help, he soon learns his worries are not so big after all. Through this engaging story children will learn that everyday worries and fears can be...

$13.95Buy now

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My Body What I Say Goes Indigenous Edition

My Body What I Say Goes Indigenous Edition

Jayneen Sanders

A book to empower and teach children about personal body safety, feelings, safe and unsafe touch, private parts, secrets and surprises, consent, and respectful relationships.

$14.95Buy now

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Resilience

Resilience

Jayneen Sanders

Meet Emmi! She is resilient, independent and courageous. She always tries her best, and even when the going gets tough, Emmi never gives in. This charming story uses verse and beautiful illustrations to model resilience,...

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Talking about Feelings

Talking about Feelings

Jayneen Sanders, Cherie Zamazing

This book encourages children to understand and manage their changing feelings and emotions, and to talk confidently about how they are feeling. Providing children with the skills and the words to express their feelings is key to...

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No Difference Between Us

No Difference Between Us

Jayneen Sanders, Amanda Gulliver

Jess and Ben are twins. Jess is a girl and Ben is a boy but in all the BIG ways, there is NO difference between them! A book to empower children and teach them from the earliest of years about gender equality, respectful...

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