By: Amber Leventry
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. And while I fully support raising awareness about this growing epidemic, there are things we need to do every day to prevent our kids from being victims of bullying. A study done by The Center for the Advancement of Health shows that it is never too early to talk about kindness, consent, and empathy. The findings show that from the beginning of kindergarten to the end of first grade, kids are the targets of bullying once every three to six minutes.
DoSomething.Org reports 90% of 4th through 8th graders are victims of bullying.
In 2013, the JAMA Pediatrics Network reported that 80% of the youth who commit suicide do so because of bullying and peer victimization.
In better news, other studies have showed that if kids think they can make a difference, they are more likely to stick up for a friend or peer who is being bullied. The Voice Youth Project indicated that targets of bullies were most supported when their peers spent time with them, gave them advice, and helped them get away from their bullies.
And a research-based bullying prevention program created and implemented in Finland called KiVa has reduced bullying and victimization by teaching bystander empathy and how to handle bullying situations when they occur.
Here are five books which will empower kids to speak out against bullying.
Stick and Stone
Stick and Stone, written by Beth Ferry and illustrated my Tom Lichtenheld, is my favorite kind of children’s book. It gets right to the point, has a clear message, and leaves a lasting impression. Stick is lonely. Stone is alone. Neither have much self-esteem, but when Pinecone makes fun of Stone, Stick steps in to help. A simple act of bravery and kindness is the beginning of a strong friendship, which is tested when Stone needs to find a way to help his buddy, Stick. Pinecone eventually comes around too. Preschool-Grade 1.
Llama Llama and the Bully Goat
Sadly, with the death of Anna Dewdney, author of the Llama Llama series, we won’t get any more of her sage advice or the clever ways she was able to incorporate kids’ behavior and parenting situations into heartwarming rhymes. From missing mama at preschool to throwing tantrums at the store and bedtime, Dewdney tapped into what we all feel as we try to parent our kids through big emotions and milestones.
In Llama Llama and the Bully Goat, Llama Llama has to contend with every parent’s nightmare: a bully named Gilroy Goat. Kids can be mean. Even when told to stop, some goats just don’t get the message. Gilroy laughs at Llama, calls names, and kicks sand at him. Llama and his friend stay strong though, and again tell Gilroy to stop. “Being bullied is no fun! Walk away…and tell someone!” In the end everyone gets along, but the most important message is that a child should tell an adult when he or she or anyone is being bullied. Preschool-Grade 1
Extremely Cute Animals Operating Heavy Machinery
Extremely Cute Animals Operating Heavy Machinery, written and illustrated by David Gordon, is exactly what it sounds like: cute animals who know how to hold their own. When Skyler insults Karen and stomps her sand castle to the ground, her friends pitch in to help her build a bigger and better sand castle. Skyler comes back with his buddies. But after several rounds of building and rebuilding what is theirs to enjoy, the cute animals bring in heavy machinery. They create the most enviable amusement park the bullies have ever seen. But there’s a strict no bullies policy. Skyler and his buddies learn the consequences of their actions, but the cute animals show kindness by giving them a second chance. Preschool-Grade 1
Noni Speaks Up
Written by Heather Hartt-Sussman and illustrated by Genevieve Cote, Noni Speaks Up tells the story about what happens when you are the bystander of bullying. Noni is kind, has friends, and knows right from wrong, but when she sees Hector being bullied, she doesn’t know what to do. She is afraid to make enemies or have her friends turn against her, so she stays silent. But her silence eats at her. She can’t sleep. She struggles with her feelings of wanting to stick up for Hector but can’t stop picturing herself being bullied if she does. Thankfully Noni finds the courage to be an ally. Preschool-Grade 2
Confessions of a Former Bully
Confessions of a Former Bully, by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Beth Adams, is a fictional, yet research based book for older kids in middle school. It reads like a diary or graphic novel, and tells the story of Katie, a self-described former bully, who learned her lesson the hard way but is on a mission to stop others from making her mistakes.
The book, without feeling too preachy, gives eye-opening facts about the high rates of bullying, the young age at which it starts, and the different ways kids can bully each other. It also gives examples and quotes to allow kids to really understand the negative impacts bullying can have. Confessions of a Former Bully also talks about the tools you can use to combat hurtful words and how to deal with physical and cyber-bullying. The book ends with the powerful message of learning how to be a “Hero Bystander”, which is by far one of the most effective ways to stop and prevent bullying. Grade 3-6
We can teach kindness. We can enforce a zero-tolerance policy. But we need to show our kids empathy and empower them to speak up for themselves and others. Reading to them and having conversations about the topic will go a long way.