A June, 1998 Summer article, "You Are Sunshine" by Liz Klimczak Harris of "Directions" magazine. This magazine is published three times a year by the Junior League of Baton Rouge, Inc. and serves the Baton Rouge area.

"You Are Sunshine"

Its premise is simple. Inside every child is sunshine. Some things make the child's sun shine brighter while others may dim the light, but not forever.
"You Are Sunshine" is a book written to address some of the issues that affect young children's self-esteem. The glossy lap-sized paperback features brilliant illustrations by Lisa Homan-Conger. Rays of sunshine seem to light each page containing messages that affirm a child's self-worth in difficult or trying situations.
The book, which is meant to be read to children, also contains information for parents or caregivers on ways to build a child's self-concept. For instance, the pages discussing divorce say:
"Some children think it must be their fault that their parents got a divorce. Maybe they were bad and caused everybody's sunshine to go out.
But children don't cause divorces - adults do. Their children are the sunshine to remind divorced adults that they can have their sunshine back one day."
The book is authored by Shirley Porter of Baton Rouge, a newly-retired psychotherapist. Porter, a graduate of LSU's School of Social Work, has worked with families for over 28 years, first as a teacher at St. Luke's Episcopal School and later as a licensed social worker.
A trio of women initiated the concept of "You Are Sunshine", Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Kitty Kimball, Dr. Sally Clausen and Porter.
As a district judge often presiding over family court matters, Kimball knew that children needed a kind word. "During my campaign for judge," Kimball says, "I was moved by a teacher who told me that she tried to say a kind word to every student of hers, knowing that it could be the only kind word the child heard." She decided to undertake a project that would bring that kind word to children, especially those who need to hear it most.
Kimball sought the advise of educator Dr. Sally Clausen, president of Southeastern Louisiana University. Excited by the idea of getting positive messages out to children, they decided to contact Porter, a mutual friend and an expert in the social well-being of young children.
After several discussions, including a meeting with a task force of experts in the child development field, they decided that a book was the best way to send the favorable self-esteem message to children throughout the state of Louisiana.
Concurrent with the publication of the book, First Lady Alice Foster has made self-esteem of children in the State of Louisiana an initiative. Called "Sharing Sunshine with the Children of Louisiana," the goals of the initiative are:

* to build every child's self-esteem, and therefore, build more productive citizens,

* to stress the value of every child,

* to encourage reading to and by young children,

* to strengthen the bonds between adults and children in Louisiana.

Foster wrote the introduction to the book that ends with: "Now it is up to those of us who care... to share sunshine with Louisiana's children."

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