Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Sesame Street Made Me Cry (or, an amazing resource for kids with incarcerated parents)

Stumbling upon these new resources from Sesame Street was a little serendipitous, for me.  I happen to have just caught a documentary called "Herman's House" on PBS (Independent Lens), so incarceration was already on my mind.

It also happens that, as a young person (not quite Sesame Street young, but younger than I am now), I had a parent who spent time in prison.  It ALSO also happens that my upcoming YA novel (the working title is TIFFANY AND TIGER'S EYE, currently in edits, contracted by Prizm Books) is about a teen who faces many of the challenges I did.

My character Rebecca is very near to my heart because she's so much like me.  I had to write this book, in solidarity with every child or adult whose parent was absent for any duration due to incarceration.  As the people at Sesame Street write in their introduction to their Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration initiative:

Unfortunately, few resources exist to support young children and families coping with this life-changing circumstance. These children have to deal with the confusion, shame, and anger that accompany the sudden absence of a parent. 

I never told ANYONE my father was in jail until after his death, and I was in my late twenties by then.  There's a stigma that follows you your whole life if you don't have the resources to deal with feelings of isolation and shame. That was a huge contributing factor, when I wrote TIFFANY AND TIGER'S EYE: on a personal level, I needed to write about the experiences that shaped me; on a larger level, I wanted to show other young people (and adult readers, too) that they're not alone.  Other people have experienced and are experiencing situations similar to yours.

Nobody wants to feel alone.

That's why this new resource from Sesame Street struck me to the core and, yes, made me cry.  There's a sweet little ebook picture book called In My Family, which I would recommend for ANY child.  I certainly wish there had been books like this available to me when I was younger.

This Sesame Street site: http://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/toolkits/incarceration has links to the ebook, video clips dealing with the topic of incarceration, and many resources for grown-ups and children, including a printable activity sheet called "How Am I Feeling?"

The launch site with an introduction is here: http://www.sesameworkshop.org/incarceration/

Please share widely.  You never know who might need a resource like this one.


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