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According to the Children's Justice Foundation, every two minutes a child in the U.S. is sexually abused. One in 20 sixth graders is actively experimenting with drugs, says a national survey conducted by Weekly Reader. Clearly molestation, abduction and drug use have become daily threats to our youth. Here are some newly released books and videotapes designed to help parents and children confront these issues.
It's O.K. To Say No! (Tor Books, $3.95) by Robin Lenett with Bob Crane is a guide to avoiding sexual abuse that parents and children can read aloud together. Most of the book is devoted to vignettes reinforcing the concept that kids should refuse to cooperate with an adult—a stranger, the school nurse, a policeman, even Uncle Ted—if that person is behaving in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. The illustrations portray assertive, plucky kids and the tone is unhysterical although at times unrealistic. In one story a child blithely goes off to sleep after telling his babysitter that he doesn't want her to talk to him about sex. And in no example does the potential abuser press the issue.
A companion volume is It's O.K. To Say No to Drugs! (Tor Books, $3.95) by Alan Garner. While the approach is identical to It's O.K. To Say No!, the bad guys here are other kids. (The book is geared for children through grade six and their parents.) Statistics show that usually it is peer pressure that pushes kids into their first experiences with drugs.
Close to Home (Scholastic, $12.95) by Oralee Wachter takes a more in-depth approach to problems of sexual abuse and abduction, showing the confusion that children in potentially dangerous situations inevitably feel, but reassuring them that they can act effectively. It is the only one of these books to address the subject of parental kidnapping and include a minority family in its examples.
Among the new videos, Say No to Drugs (Twin Tower Enterprises, $24.95) inundates the viewer with statistics and expert opinions, making it seem much longer than its 45 minutes. The vignettes of a family dealing with drugs emphasizes the importance of honesty between parent and child. The message is laudable. The acting, alas, is not.
Gary Coleman For Safety's Sake (New World Television, $19.95) keeps Coleman, as a safety instructor, to a minimum, focusing instead on tips to kids about how to handle themselves when they are alone at home. The problems covered include how to treat strangers on the phone or at the door ("never give a caller any information," says Coleman, "or tell him that you're alone").
If Your Kid's on Drugs (MCA, $24.95) is a convincing TV-movie-length dramatization of how two middle-class families deal with their children's drug addiction. The parents are the last to realize the situation; the kids initially sneer at the suggestion of getting help; the acting is first-rate and would keep most teenager's tuned in. But Burt Reynolds and Judd Nelson are farcical as tsk-ing commentators. They come across more as peeping toms than sage narrators.