Remember the spotlight feature we did on our first non-fiction book, Stranger Danger - How to Talk to Kids About Strangers? Well, you're in luck, we were able to snag an interview with author Kristi Porter, and she opened up about what inspires her, why this book is so important, and her favorite undies. So read on to find out more about this incredible author!!
DSP: Hi there! Tell us a bit about yourself!
Kristi Porter: Hello! Very glad to be here. Hmmm, a little about myself…. Well, I’m a wife, mom, grandma, and preschool teacher, so I spend most of my time surrounded by kids. And love every minute of it! I really never gave much thought about writing until I was convinced by friends to enter a writing contest. My entry placed high enough to be included in an anthology that was later published. So… writing is my new hobby. I’ve published a few short stories - mostly humorous anecdotes from my life. Stranger Danger is my first book. Besides writing, I also enjoy bicycling in the summer, video games, photography, Facebook, and spending time with my family. I live in Michigan with my husband, youngest son, and a menagerie of cats.
DSP: Great to meet you! Now, your book is called Stranger Danger - How to Talk to Kids About Strangers, tell us a little about what this book is about.
Kristi: Stranger Danger - How to Talk to Kids About Strangers is a guide to help parents and caregivers of children ages 3-8 teach kids about strangers in a fun, interactive, and age appropriate way - without scaring them.
Kids want and need to know what to DO in dangerous situations, but are usually only told to what NOT to do. (Don’t talk to strangers; don’t get in the car with strangers, etc.) Even the multitude of children’s picture books about strangers (most aimed at the 8-12 year old age group) often fail to teach kids what they CAN do if they find themselves confronted with a stranger.
Stranger Danger - How to Talk to Kids About Strangers is different. It is a how-to book is for parents and caregivers of children ages 3-8. Using techniques developed over decades of teaching young children, author Kristi Porter takes into consideration the unique thinking, and learning styles of this younger age group, offering parents a new way to talk to their kids about strangers without scaring them.
This easy to read, step by step guide gives parents age appropriate words and activities to use with even the youngest of children. Covering everything from who is a stranger, to when and how to fight back, Stranger Danger - How to Talk to Kids About Strangers is a must read guide for today’s parents.
DSP: What prompted you to take on this project? Was there anything specific or personal?
Kristi: Early in my teaching career, while putting together a unit about child safety for my class, I came across a statistic that stated: "In the majority of small child, stranger kidnapping cases, the child is simply taken by the hand and led quietly away." I wasn't sure that I agreed with that statistic, and decided to put it to the test.
With the parents' permission, I arranged to conduct a simple 'stranger test' at the annual springtime family picnic. Held at a popular local playground, twenty-four children (ages 2-8) and their parents attended. While the assistant teachers supervised the children, I called the parents aside and explained how the 'stranger test' would work.
An adult unknown to the children would simply walk up to them, take their hand and lead them away toward the parking lot. If the child asked where they were going, the 'stranger' would simply tell them there was some candy in the car, and that the child could have some if they wanted it. When they reached the car, (in full view of the playground and parents) the 'stranger' would simply tell the child that they ran out of candy, show them an empty candy bag, and return the child to the playground. If at any time the child resisted or became frightened, the 'stranger' would immediately let go and move away.
The parents were to stay on the sidelines and observe, agreeing to not punish their child if indeed they did walk away with one of the 'strangers'. This was to be a teachable moment - one that children, parents, and teachers would all discuss together at the end of the day. While many of the parents commented they didn't think their child would ever walk away with someone they didn't know, all agreed to allow their child to participate.
I called in my 'stranger' volunteers - one young adult male, and one middle aged female. Both were teachers in another program and unknown to the children or their parents.
I stood with the parents at the edge of the playground and watched with astonishment as one by one, almost half of the children simply walked away with one of the 'strangers'!
Over the course of an afternoon, 11 children accompanied a 'stranger' to the car - with no resistance, not even a glance back over their shoulder. They simply held hands and walked away - for nothing more than the promise of candy. Of the remaining children, only one became visibly frightened and was immediately returned to their parent. The others simply pulled their hand away and ran off to play with their friends. Only four of them reported the 'stranger' to a teacher or parent.
This experiment really opened my eyes about how young children view strangers, and why Stranger Danger Programs often fail. Since that day twenty-five years ago, I've made it my mission to help teach young kids to stay safe. I've used the methods in this book with hundreds of kids ages 3-7, and I'm happy to report that many of my earliest students (who are now adults) tell me that they still remember the lessons they learned about strangers, and want to know how to use those same methods to teach their children how to stay safe.
So it is for those first students, now parents themselves, that I've put this book together.
**Now, this was not something that the author and I discussed prior to sitting down with her answers and plugging away, but I have to admit that is a scary statistic. I have a 3 year old niece, a 4 year old nephew, and a 1 year old niece, and I never want anything to happen to any of them. This is pretty serious, and I just had to interject in the interview to express not only my shock at these numbers, but my support for what the author is doing here. Parents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, caregivers - we all need to know these statistics and step it up to protect our children.
Okay, back to the interview.**
DSP: Now, when you were writing Stranger Danger - How to Talk to Kids About Strangers, what kind of rituals/habits do you absolutely follow? Such as writing with music vs. complete silence, or you have to have a bowl of something to munch on while you write, etc.
Kristi: I prefer complete silence, but that’s hard to come by in my household! So I simply write when I can, where I can, and edit what I’ve written late at night after everyone has gone to bed. As for something to munch on…. I rarely eat while writing, but…. I am never without a water bottle.
DSP: There are a lot of different preferences when it comes to prewriting and outlining. What kind of prewriting did you do for this book?
Kristi: Most of the material in this book was pulled from my lesson plans, and parent handouts that I’d written over the years, so it was pretty much “prewritten” already! I simply needed to organize all the information into book format.
DSP: This book is about an incredibly important topic that is all too often underemphasized in today’s society. Aside from the obvious encouragement for parents to address the stranger danger issue, is there anything else you hope readers take away from this book?
Kristi: Yes. It is never too young to start talking to kids about the “important stuff.” You don’t have to go into great detail with preschoolers, but parents do need to start talking; not only about Stranger Danger, but things like good touch/ bad touch, drugs, bullying, etc. Too many parents wait too long to start talking to their kids.
DSP: What encouragement did you have to push you to write Stranger Danger - How to Talk to Kids About Strangers during those times all writers fear they won’t or can’t finish? Did you have any of those moments at all? How did you deal with them?
Kristi: My encouragement was the calendar. I had the summer to put it all together - and that was it! Not much time during the school year to write, so I pushed myself through the summer to get it done.
DSP: There are a lot of different books out there about talking to kids about strangers; in what ways does your book stand out from the others?
Kristi: My book is aimed at parents and caregivers of children ages 3 - 8 years of age. Most of the ‘stranger danger’ titles out there are children’s picture books, aimed at the 8-12 year old age group. To my knowledge, Stranger Danger - How to Talk to Kids About Strangers is the only book currently on the market for parents that focuses on the younger age group.
DSP: What has been the biggest high about becoming an author?
Kristi: Holding the printed book in my hands was pretty awesome, but I get the biggest high reading the reviews that people leave about my book. It’s wonderful to know that readers appreciate my work.
DSP: Do you have any fears about this book or any of your writing in general, or even as an author?
Kristi: Of course! I think every author fears that others won’t like what they’ve written. I’m no different. So far, most of the feedback I’ve gotten has been very positive. I’m grateful for that.
DSP: Has this book changed you, or has becoming an author changed you in any way?
Kristi: Has this book changed me? No, I don’t think so. Has becoming an author changed me? Yup. I get much less sleep now. And I NEED my sleep! :)
And now for some fun stuff: feel free to answer as many or as few of these questions as you’d like. They’re just for fun and to help the reads gain a sense of the author as a person to help them better relate to the author.
DSP: Are you planning to bring sexy back?
Kristi: Sure! Why not!
DSP: If you could be any cartoon character for 24 hours, who would you pick and why?
Kristi: Pink Panther. Always been my favorite!
DSP: How many ridges are there around a quarter?
Kristi: 119. Ha! And you thought I didn’t know…. :)
DSP: Do you believe in fate or destiny?
DSP: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Kristi: As much wood as a woodchuck could, if a woodchuck could chuck wood. (Preschool teachers know these things!)
DSP: What are your thoughts on string?
Kristi: Love silly string, hate shoe strings.
DSP: Boxers or briefs?
DSP: Thong, G-string/V-string, or other? If other, please explain.
Kristi: Hmmm, how about Sexy Granny Panties? :)
DSP: What is your favorite song?
Kristi: Anything and everything from the 80’s.
DSP: Do you have any tattoos? If so, how many, what are they, and where are they on your body? (PG-13)
Kristi: No tattoos.
DSP: What’s your favorite candy? Ice cream?
Kristi: Vanilla Ice Cream with m&m’s on top.
DSP: If you had to pick a CB handle, what would it be?
Kristi: Happi Kamper
DSP: Would the 8-year-old version of yourself kick your ass or praise you for what you’ve done with your life?
Kristi: When I was 8, I was going to be a famous doctor when I grew up. But I was also an insatiable reader, so I guess I’d be happy with how I turned out.
DSP: What is the last song you listened to?
Kristi: Ok, this is pretty lame…. it was ‘What does the fox say?’
DSP: Do you have any talents you haven’t shared with us?
Kristi: Not sure that you’d call it a talent…. But I’m unbeatable at the card game Spit.
DSP: Imagine you’re the sole survivor of a plane crash at sea, and you awake stranded on a deserted and uncharted island in the Bermuda Triangle. Nobody knows you’re there, and you have nothing but the clothes on your back. You’re all alone, and there’s terrifying sounds coming from deep within the jungle. Late that night as you’re starving, a large suitcase washes up on the shore. You open it up. What’s in the suitcase?
Kristi: Aside from the normal suitcase contents of clothing and toiletries, it would also contain chocolate bars, a couple of great novels, a large water bottle, and a gun, with plenty of ammo in the suitcase’s front zipper pocket. Did I mention I’m a great shot? :)
Okay, I have to admit this has been one of the most interesting and insightful interviews I've ever done, and it was a unique change from the typical fiction we normally host here. Not that fiction is bad, but this was surprisingly enlightening. I have to support Kristi here and agree that we all need to really make an effort to teach or children about things like this early on, or risk them learning the wrong lessons from someone else.
This was great. Thank you, Kristi, for the insight and for the funny responses in the just for fun questions. You've been awesome to have on DSP.
Oh, and before we go, take a minute to check out Kristi's book trailer. It's worth the time out of your day and helps show your support of what Kristi is doing.
Thanks again, Kristi! Feel free to drop by anytime and update us on how you're doing and what's new in your world!!