Safe Over Sorry: A book that teaches children without being preachy

As summer kicks in, lives are upended for the second successive year with the pandemic. During this vacation month, when children ought to be outdoors playing with their friends or visiting grandparents and making childhood memories, they are cooped indoors.

“It is important that we keep our conversations going, interactions have to take centre stage in every family, inside every home now,” says Madurai-based psychiatrist Kavitha Fenn. With families choosing a bubble lifestyle, it is imperative that we talk more with our children — particularly the younger ones facing unprecedented isolation. “We need to help them bounce back.”

“The best way to do it is to never stop talking with them,” agrees Bengaluru-based entrepreneur, Ishwarya Kumar Ahmed, who with a friend in Chennai, used the lockdown 1.0 to work on a book for children to help them understand simple things about life, such as how to keep safe, respect feelings and not hurt others. Titled 'Safe Over Sorry', the book meant for children between four to seven years, focusses on reducing a child’s vulnerability to any kind of unsafe and potentially dangerous or abusive environment.

Co-authored by Sudhalini Devadason, the 68-page book is filled with colourful illustrations by Akanksha Agnihotri. Each page speaks to the child and triggers lateral thinking. While children can read it themselves, the authors suggest the book be used by parents and educators in a collaborative manner as the child needs to participate and interact.

The narrative, in simple sentences tells of two best friends, their relatives, their activities at home and school, their secrets, how they are thrown into unsuspecting situations and how they tackle the difficult situations.

“Each situation touches upon the larger theme of personal safety and value education for every child and needs to be read in separate sittings instead of rushing it in one go,” says Sudhalini.

Participatory approach

The format is designed in a way that at the end of every chapter, the young reader is initiated or inspired to voice opinions, express his/her feelings, discuss the pros and cons of the situation. “It is a fun way of reinforcing learning,” says Ishwarya, “through integrated activities such as solving puzzles, drawing and colouring and aligning the key words to situations.”

The authors say they have tried to present the book as an empowering tool-kit of knowledge and skills. The idea is to promote a safety-focused culture for the future. “Full engagement and better understanding will come when the children are guided by their parents or educators to read it, not once but multiple times,” says Ishwarya.

A book is handy at a time when everybody is complaining about children’s increased screen time. “It draws young minds into thinking and come up with age-appropriate solutions,” says Sudhalini.

Before the pandemic struck, Ishwarya and Sudhalini, mothers to pre-teen kids, were discovering gaps in their parenting. Both were busy with their jobs and increasingly felt while the children had a structure to their home and school life, there was a lack of in-between safe and quality time for them to think creatively.

“We were looking at a physical and emotional space that would be non-judgmental, where children can be themselves and not always in competition with each other, where parents can leave them without fear,” says Sudhalini. It drove them to establish UpTurn, a community organisation to engage with children and adults through carefully curating experiences. Between 2018 and lockdown 1.0, they tied up with 30-plus schools and corporates in Chennai and Bengaluru recreating different field experiences for different age groups from a farm and a barn to Nature camps and teenage mentoring sessions.

Having begun working on it last June, the two friends launched the book last month, to coincide with awareness of child sexual abuse in April. “These are difficult times and we need to keep our children involved in meaningful activities and ensure they learn something that will be useful for them in later life,” says Ishwarya.

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 8:53:26 PM |

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