September Books: Bullies are a Pain!

By on August 29, 2015

Often at the start of the school year, bullying concerns surface. Here are a few stories to open up a conversation with your child about bullies. Below are a few suggestions from www.stopbullying.gov/ to keep in mind as you and your family prepare for a new year of school.

Parents, school staff, and other caring adults such as family members and friends have a role to play in preventing bullying. We can:

  1. Help kids understand bullying. You can talk with your child/ren about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely: suggest the use of humor and saying “Stop” directly and confidently. Walk away, if other actions don’t work. Tell kids bullying is unacceptable. Make sure kids know how to get help, especially by talking to a trusted adult, who can give comfort, support, and advice, even if they can’t solve the problem directly.
  2. Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns. Start conversations about daily life and feelings with questions like these:

• What was one good thing that happened today? Any bad things?

• What is lunchtime like at your school? Who do you sit with? What do you talk about?

• What are you good at? What do you like best about yourself?

3.    Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.

4.    Model how to treat others with kindness and respect. Kids learn from adults’ actions. By treating others with kindness and respect, adults show the kids in their lives that there is no place for bullying. Even if it seems like they are not paying attention, kids are watching how adults manage stress and conflict, as well as how they treat their friends, colleagues, and families.

Take some time to enjoy a good book with your child/ren – these books provide an easy lead-in to a conversation about safety. Stories can help to create safe connections between caring adults and children. Be safe and have a great year!

Red

Books_Redby Jan De Kinder

Published originally in Belgium, this quiet book is nevertheless a powerful story. A little girl, the narrator, points to a classmate’s red cheeks, and soon “It’s like magic” and the other children urge him to “Do it again!” “Leave me alone!” Tommy says and repeats. But another classmate, Paul, pushes. And the narrator realizes she wants it to stop. But she’s scared of Paul. “His tongue is as sharp as a knife.”

Neutral colors make the reds pop, especially on the double page spread where a wolf image in red and black dominates the two small child figures. When a teacher asks, “Who saw what happened?” the narrator wants to speak. But it takes a second request from the teacher before the narrator raises her hand. Relief is clear in the brief words of the red text, “I’m not all on my own,” she thinks as others raise their hands and speak up.

Some of the other children come to stand with the narrator who is later confronted by Paul’s predictable reaction. His face turns green like “a sour apple.” Pair this with the conclusion – the narrator and Tommy play soccer together – and the reader can imagine the teacher’s response. The expressive faces and body language of the pictures support the understated language of this story.

Eerdmans, $16; Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 2. (This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Bullies Never Win

Books_bulliesneverwinby Margery Cuyler, illustrated by Arthur Howard

Award-winning author Cuyler once again connects with children in this story about “worrier” Jessica’s experience with “perfect” Brenda’s belittling. Whenever Jessica excels, Brenda teases her — about homework, kickball, her “toothpick” legs — and won’t even include her at the lunch table. Alas, one day Jessica’s mom mistakenly packs Jessica’s lunch in her brother’s boy lunchbox. Brenda makes fun in front of the other kids. This humiliation is too much for Jessica.

Comical pen and ink watercolors clearly display individuals’ feelings. White space is used skillfully to integrate text seamlessly with animated illustrations.

At lunch, Jessica sits with Anita and her friends, who sympathize with her about Brenda, “You should stand up to her.” Jessica’s mom listens and makes suggestions: “Have you told her how you feel?” “Why don’t you talk to Mr. Martin?” (the teacher). Jessica worries all night, imagining several possibilities of what to say, such as, “Your freckles look like pimples.” At school, ignoring doesn’t work. Of course, when Jessica threatens to talk with the teacher, this brings the expected accusation of tattletale from Brenda.

Body language and text raise the tension as Jessica’s “heart begins to pound.” The image of Brenda sticking out her tongue looms large.

Ultimately, Jessica decides, “Enough was enough!” And stands up for herself.

Readers see Brenda’s face redden. And Jessica, who on earlier pages seemed to shrink, walks with new confidence, out of the lunchroom.

Simon & Schuster, $17.99; Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2 (This book is available to borrow at Miami Dade Public Library: Main Branch, Miami Lakes, West Dade Regional. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Lucy and the Bully

Books_Lucyby Claire Alexander

Lucy the lamb’s classmates like her drawings — except Tommy, the bull. He knocks over her paints, stomps on her clay blackbird, breaks her pencils, and threatens her, “Don’t tell . . . or else!”

Lucy doesn’t. But her mother notices Lucy looks sadder each day. Eventually after mom insists, Lucy explains. She’s terrified to hear her mother call the teacher.

Sunlit colors identify a pleasant classroom and playground. Although, dark colors in the large double spread showing Lucy’ sleepless night, contrast with the active daytime school experiences. Faces and bodies of the animal characters give readers a good sense of their feelings.

The next day, it’s Tommy who is sad. When Lucy notices his drawing of a hedgehog, and comments that she likes it, this makes it possible for him to apologize. It also subtly suggests that jealousy may have prompted him to torment her.

A beginning Note to Parents and Teachers from a therapist at Northwestern University’s Family Institute briefly shares information. It offers tips for introducing difficult issues such as bullying, to help strengthen children’s feelings of safety.

Albert Whitman & Company, $16.99; Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2 (This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Here are a few more titles:

Henry and the Bully by Nancy Carlson
Viking, $15.99 (hardcover) $6.99 (paperback) Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3 (This book is available to borrow at Miami Dade Public Library: Arcola Branch. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

The Three Bully Goats by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Will Terry
Albert Whitman & Company, $16.99; Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3 (This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)

Thomas the TOADilly Terrible Bully by Janice Levy, illustrated by Bill Slavin and Esperanca Melo. Eerdmans, $17; Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 2 (This book may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)


 

Meribeth Shank works in the Media Center at Miami Country Day School, an independent school in Miami Shores, Florida, teaches classes on Writing Books for Children, and earned her MFA in Writing for children from Vermont College. You can also find her on the web: meribeths.blogspot.com

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