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Riggs, Shannon

Riggs, Shannon

Personal

Married Richard Riggs, September, 1989; children: Sabrina, Jake. Education: Oregon State University, B.A. (English), 1992; Old Dominion University, M.A. (professional writing), 2001.

Addresses

Home and office—OR. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Author and educator. Writing instructor at college level; speaker at schools; presenter at workshops. Salem-Keizer School District Sexual Abuse Prevention Team, volunteer. Liberty House, volunteer.

Member

Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, National Council of Teachers of English, Willamette Writers (Salem chapter).

Awards, Honors

Oregon Book Award for Children's Literature, and Chicago Public Library Best of the Best designation, both 2007, both for Not in Room 204.

Writings

Not in Room 204, illustrated by Jaime Zollars, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 2007.

Contributor of essays and short fiction for adults to anthologies and to periodicals, including FamilyFun, Byline, Voice of a Soldier, Sol, and Futures. Columnist for Walt Disney Internet Group's Family.com.

Sidelights

Shannon Riggs was inspired to write her first book for children, Not in Room 204, from her own personal background: as a child she experienced sexual abuse by an adult. In an interview with Sara Wiseman for Oregon's Salem Monthly, Riggs explained that her experiences are shared by one in four girls and one in six boys nation-wide. "If this was a flu epidemic, it would be on the news every day," Riggs told Wiseman. "We would be getting shots for our kids, we would call out the National Guard, we would respond like the emergency it is … but we're not; we're not responding at all. Because the subject carries the weight of a cultural taboo," she added, "nobody talks about it."

In Not in Room 204 Riggs does talk about it, in the form of a story illustrated by Jaime Zollars. In the book, Regina Lillian Hadwig is a quiet student who has a deep secret: she is being sexually abused by her father. Confused and afraid, Regina does not confide this secret to anyone, not even her mother or her teacher, Mrs. Salvador. However, when Mrs. Salvador teaches a unit on Stranger Danger the girl is encouraged to come forth. Mrs. Salvador explains that while some adults touch children in ways that are wrong, other adults will defend children from these threats. The talk encourages Regina to confide in her teacher, and readers are left knowing that Mrs. Salvador will come through with her promise to help.

In her Booklist review of Not in Room 204, Carolyn Phelan noted that the actions of Regina's father are never clearly stated, making the story appropriate to younger children. The book "will raise children's awareness of sexual abuse without raising anxiety," concluded Phelan, praising Riggs's text for its "forthrightness … and sensitivity." Writing that Not in Room 204 will jump-start group discussions, School Library Journal contributor Carolyn Lehman suggested that the book's "audience … may well be adults, who will be reassured and hopefully inspired by Mrs. Salvador's example of firm boundaries lovingly enforced." "Expressive" illustrations by Zollars "capture the warm, bright classroom as well as Regina's worry and isolation," observed Lauren Adams in Horn Book, the critic adding that Riggs grounds her "clear purpose and message" in her story's "compassionate and engaged" teacher figure.

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 1, 2007, Carolyn Phelan, review of Not in Room 204, p. 47.

Horn Book, May-June, 2007, Lauren Adams, review of Not in Room 204, p. 273.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2007, review of Not in Room 204, p. 80.

Salem Monthly (Salem, OR), June 29, 2007, Sara Wiseman, "Local Author Shines Light on Child Abuse."

School Library Journal, September, 2007, Carolyn Lehman, review of Not in Room 204, p. 80.

ONLINE

Shannon Riggs Home Page,http://www.shannonriggs.com (May 23, 2008).

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