Childbirth educators are comfortable and familiar with discussing pregnancy and birth topics with adults, but sharing appropriate information on the same topics with children may be a different story. If educators may not be totally comfortable and skilled in having these conversations with children, imagine how some of the important adults in a child's life may struggle with handling this topic? Mary Jo Podgurski, RNC, EdD, has created a new book "Nonnie Talks about Pregnancy & Birth", the fourth volume of five in the "Nonnie Talks" series. The "Nonnie Talks" series "seeks to open the door to parent/adult and child communication by addressing issues with sensitivity and warmth." This book is no exception. I believe that every professional will want to have this book in their library as a resource for the families they work with who will be having honest and accurate age-appropriate discussions with their children about pregnancy and birth.
Everyone can find themselves in this book
There are many things I love about this children's book and it is hard to list all of the wonderful aspects. I do need to call out the diversity that is so beautifully represented on every one of the book's pages. People of all colors and with all sorts of family structures participate in the stories that unfold throughout the book. Assisted reproductive technology, epidurals, water births, a variety of labor and birth positions, different health care providers, cesareans, and so much more are respectfully and appropriately shared. We know pregnancies and births happen to every kind of family in a multitude of ways and this diversity is represented respectfully throughout the entire book.
This book is not only a book to read and look at, but it is filled with a variety of discussion topics that allow adults and children to take a pause for further discussion as appropriate. There are lots of prompts that ask children to think and call upon what they already know. They are also encouraged to investigate and learn more and are provided information and suggestions about how they might go about that. Both writing and drawing in this book is encouraged and there are plenty of images to color in too. Plenty of natural stopping points exists, as this is a lot of book for one sitting. Children are honored for what they already know and their curiosity in the topic.
There is a thorough glossary in the back of the book to encourage learning words that might be unfamiliar to the reader.
The perfect book for tweens and young teens
The book itself suggests that the material is appropriate for grades 3-8 and I tend to agree. The material is completely age-appropriate, and not in any way "childish." There is great respect shown to the two characters who are learning about pregnancies and births, and Nonnie, as the guide is accepting, encouraging and welcoming of all of their questions. This is not a young child's book but is perfectly designed for the inquisitive tween who is ready to be treated as the maturing individual that they are. I think that 9-12-year-olds will appreciate the respect and consideration shown to them as reflected in the words and drawings. I suspect that many children reading this book will be surprised that the characters' questions are exactly the same ones that they themselves want to know the answer to.
Normalizes pregnancy and birth
"Nonnie Talks about Pregnancy & Birth" normalizes the process and provides evidence-based information about the various options and alternatives that arise during the childbearing year. Kids reading this book get a healthy look at the physical and emotional changes that are part of the process of reproduction and lots of space to process what they are learning. I see Lamaze International's Six Healthy Birth Practices well-represented in this book, which is no surprise as Mary Jo has been a long time Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and former President of Lamaze.
The illustrations are the icing on the cake
"Nonnie Talks about Pregnancy & Birth" book is a soft-covered attractive book with a beautiful hand-drawn illustration of a group of pregnant families on the cover. The material between the two covers does not disappoint either. The book is written in a lovely, easy to read, large font, with a multitude of both carefully drawn illustrations by the talented illustrator Alice M. Burroughs and well thought out pictures that accompany the text. The graphics serve to further inform and educate the children (and adults) who will be exploring the book. The pictures reinforce the book's overall message of inclusion and diversity surrounding pregnancy and birth.
Some questions for the author
Sharon Muza: How did this book come about after publishing three other "Nonnie" books?
Mary Jo: Nonnie Talks about Pregnancy and Birth was my next natural title - a life lived as a birth advocate, childbirth educator, and teen parent advocate led me to take on this important topic. Since the release of Nonnie Talks about Pregnancy and Birth, I've completed Nonnie Talks about Death (I was a pediatric oncology nurse as well as a hospice nurse). I'm concurrently writing Nonnie Talks about Mental Health and Nonnie Talks about Sex. Future titles include on one bullying and one on disabilities.
SM: What has some of the feedback on this book been like?
MJ: "Nonnie Talks about Pregnancy & Birth" has been well received. Readers appear to love it. I do focus groups for all my books, and this one was particularly popular with 4th - 7th graders. Children are curious, even in the age of online perusal. A trusted adult mentor can ease the transformation of knowledge, add values, and create a safe environment for learning. My books help them to do that.
SM: Why is it important to have the cooperative learning and discussion with the parents or another adult? Kids today can have the book and run with it themselves, right?
MJ: I love the way interaction between adults and children empower young people to seek guidance and responses to their questions. Just opening the book together begins a dialogue that might not happen if the children worked through the book themselves.
SM: How can childbirth educators use this book with the families they will be working with?
MJ: I've often wished one of us had done research on the way our own children respond to our continual advocacy for women and for birth. Do they develop open-minded attitudes about pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum and parenting? CBEs can use the book as a way to introduce these life-affirming topics to their own children, and to the parents they teach. The book is easy to read, the pictures and illustrations are vivid, fun, and self-explanatory. There isn't another resource for children that addresses pregnancy and birth with an eye to normalcy.
A recommended resource and a worthwhile read
I appreciate Mary Jo's approach to creating this book that treats children with respect. It provides accurate and age-appropriate information that values the developmental needs of the tween who is interested in learning about pregnancies and babies. The diversity of the stories, characters, and images, along with the normalizing of the process really goes a long way toward creating a healthy knowledge and respect of the amazing work that people's bodies do when growing and birthing a baby. As a childbirth educator and doula, "Nonnie Talks about Pregnancy & Birth" is a must have for my library, so that I can share it with parents. I am sure that every parent who wants their child to learn about these topics in an intentional and healthy way would want to purchase this book to go through with their tween. This is the perfect book for that age group and it will be greatly valued by both children and the adults who support them in their learning. Thank you, Mary Jo, for creating this resource and all the "Nonnie Talks..." books so that both children and adults can learn from your big heart and wise and clever mind.