MSM Psychologist Co-Authors Book to Ignite Conversation with Children About Police Shootings, Racial Injustice


Recent headlines about police brutality and unarmed black men being shot by law enforcement officers have many children asking questions their parents just cannot answer. Often, parents will try to shield their children from the news rather than having a conversation about it, according to Morehouse School of Medicine psychologist Marietta Collins, Ph.D. That approach could lead children to believe that race is a taboo topic.

In an effort to get parents and teachers talking about race, Dr. Collins, teamed up with fellow experts to pen a book about the topic. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice, can help families talk about race and racial injustice.

“It’s not the kind of children’s book that you would give a child to go off and read by him or herself,” said Collins. “It’s really a book that’s written for parents, caregivers, and teachers, to read with children because it stimulates discussion around issues related to racial injustice.”

The book, co-authored by Ann Hazzard, Ph.D., and Marianne Celano, Ph.D.—both psychologists at Emory University School of Medicine—targets young children, ages four to nine years old.

The trio came up with the idea about two years ago following the deaths of Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, and other black men at the hands of police.

“We were all frustrated with what we saw as a negative turn in our country,” said Collins. “We wanted to address the topic from the bottom up starting with young children and families.”

The story focuses on two children and their families —one white and one black—as they discuss the police shooting of a black man in their community.

“What’s really good and positive about this story, is that these parents of both of these kids talk about how racism started, and how important it is to disrupt a pattern. It really refers to racism as a negative pattern that started with white people being meaner to black people. So, to disrupt that pattern is really important,” according to Collins.

Included with the book is a “Note to Parents and Caregivers” containing conversation guides, sample questions and answers, and resources to help continue the conversation.

Something Happened in Our Town is published by Magination Press and is available at, Walmart, and Barnes and Noble.

 Something Happened in Our Town