Workbook designed to help kids avoid, or identify, attackers


Carolyn Anderson wastes no time with understatement in her workbook, "How to Protect Your Child from Becoming a Missing Person."

The first sentence of the foreword reads, "We MUST become paranoid about our children's safety NOW because they are disappearing right before our very eyes."

Where children's safety is concerned, Ms. Anderson says, there's no room for subtlety. "I decided to do this because my goddaughter was kidnapped last year in Philadelphia and killed," she says.

Her response was to try to help other families. The workbook she developed is a combination storybook, coloring book, picture album, personal safety checklist, emergency telephone directory and fingerprinting chart. It's designed for parents and children to work on together to teach kids how to avoid being attacked, what to do if assaulted, how to call for help and how to identify the attacker.

Part I of the spiral notebook contains a story of two children separated from their mothers in a mall. One can't tell security guards how to contact relatives. The other knows the way to react and even thwarts a potential kidnapper in the process. The story, "What Will I Do If I Get Lost?, is personalized by using a fill-in-the-blanks format.

Other sections instruct the children how to give "important information" about themselves, their neighborhood and school and how to describe parents, brothers and sisters and the baby-sitter. Many questions are basic, but mixed in are potential shockers about seeing drugs sold or someone with a gun in school or a baby-sitter using drugs.

Ms. Anderson, who has "two grown sons" but doesn't choose to disclose her age, says she talked to more than 200 people, "mostly kids," in her research, and officials of two local police departments to "find out what information they need on missing persons."

"I wrote it geared for kids 3 to 14 to try to make them more observant about themselves and other people," she says. "You have to get them when they're still young enough and eager enough to tell you things.

"I wrote it for parents, too, to make them aware of the dangers."

Starlite Productions, run by Ms. Anderson and her husband, Thomas Anderson, from their Druid Hill Avenue home, produced the 44-page, 8 1/2 -by-11-inch workbook. The book is simply produced using only black type and child-like line drawings. But what it lacks in graphic sophistication is quite plainly overshadowed by the usefulness of the workbook. She says "close to a thousand" books have been sold.

Sgt. Kurt Ellinger, supervisor of the missing persons unit of the city Police Department, says 3,500 juveniles are reported missing each year in Baltimore. Most are runaways.

Of Ms. Anderson's workbook, which Sergeant Ellinger calls "the only game in town," he says, "The Police Department feels there is a need for greater awareness of the problem of missing and exploited children. Such an endeavor seems to address that problem."

Carol Glover, principal of Cathedral Christian School on North Broadway, says she had Ms. Anderson talk to classes and to parents because, "Here's a way for a child to talk about himself by putting it on the pages of the book."

Eileen Eldridge, a parent volunteer at Rognel Heights Elementary School in West Baltimore who attended a similar parent workshop at her son's school, also attests to the validity of Ms. Anderson's method.

"To me as a young parent, she addressed a lot of questions, things I wouldn't have thought to ask my 6-year-old son," Ms. Eldridge says. "He really opened up to me after we filled out the workbook."

To order, write to Thomas Anderson, Starlite Productions, P.O. Box 512, Baltimore, Md. 21203. Send $10.50 for the workbook or $12.60 for a workbook and audio tape cassette set -- the price includes Maryland sales tax -- plus $2 per book for shipping and handling.

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