Preschoolers learn burn prevention thanks to Bernie Burn character
By KELLY SMITH
The children at Friends’ House Preschool know to stay away from Bernie
Burn. Though he hides in many places, like the iron, in the toaster and on oven
doors, these kids know how to avoid him and insist he won’t get them.
The lesson they learned is thanks to Sarah Cruz. Cruz, a registered nurse
and stay-at-home mom, came to the school on Harrington Avenue Monday morning
her book “Bernie Burn” to the children. “Bernie Burn” is
all about burn prevention and fire safety and is aimed at children aged six months
to four years old. Its colorful pages gets and keeps children’s attention,
and the words in the book like, “Bernie Burn is hot! He’s not cool.
Don’t touch Bernie Burn or you’ll get a boo boo,” help get
the message across.
According to Cruz, who illustrated and co-wrote the book, “Bernie Burn” is
the first of its kind intended for children four and younger. All others
out there are directed at kindergarten-aged children and up.
Cruz and her husband, Christopher, came up with the idea for Bernie Burn
shortly after their daughter, Azurae, suffered second degree burns on her
days before her first birthday. The story in the book is based on the incident.
“One afternoon she was toddling around while I was cooking,” said
Cruz. “Before I could do anything to stop her she reached out and touched
the hot oven door. She had second-degree burns on her hand, but she is fortunate,
since they healed.”
Cruz said even after it happened, much to her surprise, her daughter
would try to go near the oven again.
“I’d say to her, ‘Don’t touch. Bernie Burn,” and
my husband asked me where I got that from,” she said.
Cruz said she told him it was something her mother used to say. He
liked it so much he suggested she create a book about the subject
“I did some research and I was surprised there was not a lot of literature
available [for younger audiences]. That’s what we think is so different
about this book,” she said.
From there, the couple set out to prevent other parents and children
from experiencing the same trauma, and though it has been three
years in the
making and even
led to them creating their own publishing company, “Bernie Burn” has
been well-received by local and national organizations.
“Although the National Safe Kids doesn’t provide endorsements, they
did say they liked the book very much,” said Cruz.
National Safe Kids is an organization dedicated to the prevention
of unintended childhood injuries. According to its Web
site, thousands of children suffer
burn injuries each year, and of those children age four
and under are
twice as likely
to die from those injuries.
Since then, Cruz has planned to visit with several pre-schools,
with Friends’ House
being the first, to get the message of the book out there and, hopefully, find
others interested in purchasing it. After she read the book to the children,
Cruz uncovered a wagon full of household appliances she brought with her to further
illustrate to the children what to stay away from. Included were a curling iron,
an iron, a crockpot, a coffee maker, a radiator and a lamp.
“I won’t let Bernie Burn get me,” said one child.
“Me neither!” chimed in a second and a third.
“This was wonderful,” said Cathy Costantino, owner of Friends’ House. “The
children are always really interested in this kind of information and they like
to pass it around.”
Costantino said she was certain the children would
spread the word about Bernie Burn to parents
and other children
“That’s just what we want to happen,” said Cruz.
With plenty of time and money invested in the project (the first printing
consisted of 5,000 copies), Cruz said that if “Bernie Burn” can help prevent “even
one child from being burned than all our efforts were worth it over the last
In the back of the book, Cruz offers several
tips to parents that will help them prevent
• Provide continuous and adequate supervision of children in the kitchen,
especially as a child’s mobility and curiosity increases.
• Create a “Safe Area” in the kitchen where a child can be
placed. Use highchairs, playpens, gates, etc. and check for their location before
moving any hot liquids in the kitchen.
• Establish a “No Zone” directly in front of the stove. Teach
children to remain out of this area. This can be done with colored tape on the
• Never hold a child while drinking hot liquids.
Also at the end of the book are coloring pages with Bernie Burn hanging out
in different dangerous places around
the kitchen. Cruz believes that coloring the
pages will help reinforce the idea of
Bernie Burn to the children.
Copies of “Bernie Burn” can be purchased for $3.50 by visiting www.littlebootspublishing.com
or calling 475-5852 for an order form. “Bernie Burn” can also be
customized for organizations to include its own forward page and logo.