The main character in the book lays in the grass with the book on her lap

Teaching Children About Sun Care

Last updated: March 2023

Some of my earliest memories involve children's books. I remember Dr. Seuss, Mark Twain's books, Grimm's Fairy Tales, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I remember the illustrations that thrilled or scared me, the lessons I learned, and the fun that I had reading them. I even have these same feelings about the books that I read to my own children. The simplicity of children's books can leave an impression that lasts a lifetime.

Reading books

What if we could teach our children about sun safety through a time-tested medium that would last a lifetime? What if a very cool book could be read to them before they go to bed that would lead them to practice great skin care habits? It seems that we already have our answer in a book entitled, Elise Keeps Smiling, by Jessica Cassick (illustrated by Daniel Butler) from Lockport, New York.

Honoring a friend

Jessica Cassick honors her late friend Elise Schunk (nee Hilton) who died of Stage IV Melanoma in 2015 in her 38-page, colorful children's book that gets a critical message across to its young readers (and older ones, too). That is: "Wear sunscreen every day." It's one thing to nag teenagers and college kids about protecting their skin, but what if it became as routine as brushing their teeth?

Developing good habits at a young age

This is the genius of this approach. Habits developed as youths are more likely to be part of the fabric of a person's life. Cassick's book is colorfully illustrated, simply written, but profound in its message. The book is not about cancer, but is a positive message about having a smile on one's face (as well as sunscreen). It is about limiting sun exposure and maximizing the joys and fun found in each new day, a message that we could all surely use.

Not just a book

There's more. Each book contains a sample of sunscreen to further cement the lesson as well as a tip sheet compiled by the Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) for caregivers. Cassick is generously donating 60% of the proceeds of her book to RPCI, which is a leading cancer center in the Buffalo, New York region. This seems like a win all around: Honor a friend. Protect our children. Support a regional cancer center.

Creativity, the key to success

I believe that this creative approach to sun protection education is critical in dealing with the melanoma epidemic. I am not only an advocate for protecting our young people from tanning beds and long bouts of laying out in the sun (what not to do), but for anything that gets the message across about sunscreen application (what to do). So often, young people just hear what we stand against rather that what we stand for. Equating the happy life with skin care is a positive way to do this.

Final thoughts

Here is a local news piece on this book. I would be interested in your feedback and any other books that might affect our young people in a positive way with regard to developing good skin care habits.

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