Turning university research into a children’s book

School of Social Work
Books and literature
A child holds the French book
Professor Simon Lapierre gave a voice to children living with domestic violence, to understand what they’re experiencing and to find better solutions to help them.

By Laura Darche

To paint a fuller picture of children living with domestic violence, Professor Simon Lapierre did what no one before had ever done: ask children to talk about what they’re experiencing and write a book … for children.

“After 15 years of reading the same thing, I found we only had a partial picture, that we were looking at domestic violence from the outside, concentrating on its negative effects on children. So I decided to start from where they’re at, to help them.” - Simon Lapierre, associate professor, School of Social Work

The children themselves asked that their stories be told to other children. They wanted those experiencing domestic violence to know that they’re not alone, and for other children and their parents to be aware of their reality.

With innovative research dissemination highly valued at the University of Ottawa, Lapierre and his team, comprised mainly of students, chose to let children speak for themselves by publishing a book that explains in their own words what it means to live with domestic violence.

During discussion groups organized with the Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale, the team members asked the children for their expert advice to conduct their research. The children gave them a lot of suggestions and information on what questions to ask or not and on the format to use for one-on-one interviews, which most of the children chose to take part in. For example, it’s all right to ask questions about what’s happening at home, but not all right to ask whether someone has a boyfriend or girlfriend. That’s too personal…

The students were very moved by the children and keen on the project, the first research experience for many, so they put a lot into it. Without neglecting to publish scholarly articles in specialized journals, the team wanted to finish the book, so important to the children, as soon as the research was done. The publisher they chose found an illustrator, and costs were kept to a minimum to make the book as affordable as possible.

The book Il se prenait pour le roi de la maison ("He thought he was the king of the house", in French only) is currently available in most French bookstores and from Éditions du remue-ménage.