Decolonize Your Bookshelf: Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect by Jayneen Sanders

Decolonize Your Bookshelf

I have a few thoughts I need to get out before I get into a review of this book. First is that colonization goes hand-in-hand with patriarchy, so despite the fact that this book isn’t really about incorporating more diversity into your shelves, it does relate very closely. The second is, what the fuck, with the confirmation of our newest Chief Justice bodily autonomy is apparently still up for debate (to be honest, I knew it was, but it still feels weird).

Lets Talk AboutLet’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect: Teach children about body ownership, respect, feelings, choices and recognizing bullying behaviors
written by Jayneen Sanders, illustrated by Sarah Jennings

It’s never really too early to talk to your children about body boundaries. You should also be teaching your children the correct anatomical terms for body parts. So yes, that means teaching your two year old the words penis, vagina, and vulva. There is nothing inherently bad or embarrassing about these words. This will be easier or harder depending on how you were brought up thinking about these words and the actual parts. There is no shame in bringing your own baggage to these conversations. But for the safety of our children we need to move through that discomfort and teach them to not be ashamed of their bodies (body positivity) or their feelings (sex positivity). Children who are taught correct body parts and boundaries (appropriate touches vs. inappropriate touches) and taught to set boundaries without shame will be able to share when someone has crossed those boundaries and exactly how. They will also learn to develop healthy, happy relationships. 

Not only does this book open those conversations for parents who may feel uncomfortable with talking about these topics, but it gives parents who are confused about where to start a good jumping off point. Despite my rant above, body parts are not mentioned. It’s primarily hugging and kissing of a very innocuous kind. And there aren’t any scenes with creepy adults crossing lines. But the concepts covered here are vitally important for a lifetime of needing to define and hold boundaries.

We found the illustrations to be engaging and fun and the text, while it got a little long overall, was also engaging. Do be prepared to stop and talk about the concepts covered here. There are a lot of notes at the end that can help you ask good questions and give you plenty of food for thought for each page of the book. This is immensely helpful, even for parents who know what they want to talk about. High five to the illustrator for including a child in a wheelchair and showing that that child’s body boundary includes the chair.  

Remember patriarchy is about power and by teaching girls to please above all else, as well as neglecting to teach them about body boundaries, we set them up in that power structure that takes advantage of them. Teaching boys that they have a right to women and girls gives them permission to use the power patriarchy mistakenly gives them. That’s not to say when girls don’t speak up assault or harassment is their fault or for boys that by going along with all the implicit messages we send them removes their culpability. It’s not and it doesn’t. Smash that patriarchy by reading this book with your daughters and your sons. Teach them that consent is sexy and that consent should always be enthusiastic.  Teach them: their body, their choice. And then be sure to back that up when relatives want a hug or kiss and they don’t want to give it.

A big shout out to Aisha Ray of Raising Luminaries/Books for Littles for bringing this book to my attention with her amazing review that I came across on Facebook. If you don’t already follow her, go do that now and then give to her Patreon. She works hard and is such an incredible resource for parents fighting to bring about change in this world. 

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