‘Something Happened in Our Town’ a children’s book for tough conversations

‘Something Happened in Our Town’ is a new children's book that helps parents talk to their kids about racial issues by addressing police-involved shootings. (Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard; Magination Press; and illustrator Jennifer Zivoin)

‘Something Happened in Our Town’ is a new children's book that helps parents talk to their kids about racial issues by addressing police-involved shootings. (Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard; Magination Press; and illustrator Jennifer Zivoin)

A new children’s book aims to get parents and kids talking about police-involved shootings.

“Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice,” is the first book by Marietta Collins, director of behavioral medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine. It tells the story of Emma and Josh and the different conversations that both have with their families after the news of police shooting a black man in their town. Emma is white and Josh is black.

“Depending on who you ask, people will present a story with different perspectives,” said Collins. “We really wanted to give voice to that, and leave children and families empowered.”

Both children hear about the event, but they don’t really understand it because no one is talking to them about it, until they ask their parents. Emma’s parents focus on racial injustice, even admitting that generations back their family owned slaves. While Josh’s conversation with his parents touches on slavery while highlighting civil rights heroes and the power of coming together to make a change.

Collins and her co-authors Marianne Celano, Ph.D., and Ann Hazzard, Ph.D., met at Emory University School of Medicine. Right before Collins was set to retire, Celano reached out to her about writing this book. The authors were very excited about the prospect and felt very strongly about what they wanted: to write a book that would be relevant to the underserved population that they worked with.

“We would give voice to some of the struggles that they had experienced,” said Collins. “…and to start a dialogue among families both black and white about racial injustice.”

Parents may try to insulate their kids from such news, but Collins says that children will hear about it — at school, from other adults or through the media. She and her co-authors wrote the book to help parents broach this difficult topic.

“Through children’s books, you are able to really communicate what is really going on in the world and make changes from a very early age,” she said.

Collins will be one of the many guests at the 27th annual African American Children’s Book Fair this Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Community College of Philadelphia.

Collins and her co-authors are working on a follow-up book titled, “Something Happened with My Friend,” which discusses immigration from a child’s point of view.

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