CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 16. . . .December 18, 2009
Extreme weather, fires, electrical outages, pandemics – all are unexpected events that can cause disruption on a massive scale. Disasters call for large-scale plans to save lives, property and money. The debacle that occurred after Hurricane Katrina spurred public safety administrators to get into action and develop viable programs that can be put into place quickly.
Bobbie Kalman’s “Disaster Alert!” series is aimed at teaching children about how to prepare for an emergency and what to expect should they be forced out of their homes and into an emergency shelter. Teaching children about disaster response can also help reduce panic and anxiety in an emergency.
For the most part, Preparing for Disasters and Living with Shelters can help. The books contain many useful pictures of people in action as they prepare for dangerous events, such as tornadoes, hurricanes and floods (also offering explanations about some of the natural phenomena), as well as shots of what evacuation centers and shelters look like. The books offer useful suggestions about how family members should plan to get back in contact if they are separated, how to stay as safe as possible in an earthquake or tornado, and how people are processed in a shelter. An important lesson is about the patience and consideration that people must give each other in emergency situations, understanding that food takes time to deliver, that some people may have been psychologically damaged by the disaster and that they may exhibit unusual behaviours.
Kalman includes her own experience as a refugee from Hungary in 1956 to illustrate the long history of people seeking shelter.
The 32-page books are well-organized, following the stages of awareness, preparedness and evacuation. A careful proof-reading of Living in Shelters would have revealed that the Federal Emergency Response Agency (FEMA) is discussed on page 8, but what kind of organization it is and in which country it operates is not explained until page 10, along with Public Safety Canada. Errors such as this are completely avoidable. The overuse of exclamation marks would also make the text less sensational!
The final page of each book contains a glossary, an index and a list of websites. Many of the words in the glossary have already been defined in the text, and some are defined imprecisely – such as amateur in Living in Shelters. Kalman and co-author Kelley MacAulay define an amateur as: “a person who is not earning money at a particular activity, such as operating a ham radio.” The ham radio operators may be amateurs, but, in the case of these disasters, their role is voluntary, part of the larger contribution of volunteers helping out. This lack of precision can cause confusion in a child who is trying to learn the meaning of a word. Similarly, the entries for ‘families’ and ‘helping’ in the index list nearly every page in the book. The listings in an index should be about topics that are substantial, not just words for the sake of having listings. These books are teaching tools. It’s important to get the content right, but it is equally important to teach children about how books work, and that’s why attention should be paid to making the format accurate and useful for the student researcher.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.