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Children's Books About Bullying and Bullies
Awareness of bullying is being discussed wherever children meet in a group setting. Even at my daughter's community children's theatre group, her instructors have advised that they have been to special bullying prevention training, and bullying absolutely will not be tolerated. Bullying at any age is increasingly an issue that schools, churches, and community groups are trying to address.
However, bullying can be a slightly bewildering topic to teach. What is the line between normal childhood socialization and actual bullying? How do you share your expectations with children about their behavior while helping children understand the negative consequences bullying can have on kids who find themselves in the middle of it?
I recommend the following children's picture books to share with a classroom to help introduce this important topic. If you are an educator, you are probably familiar with some of these titles. These titles can be used to supplement your bullying-prevention curriculum and aid you in your efforts to educate your class on this important topic!
Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems. Leonardo is a a monster who isn't very good at scaring children, and in fact he is failing miserably. After doing some research, Leonardo finds the biggest scaredy-cat kid around, someone perfect to pick on. After he finally enjoys the cruel satisfaction of scaring the poor kid, Leonardo realizes that acting like a monster isn't all it is cracked up to be. So he makes an important decision to leave his monster ways behind him. Although this story is about a monster, the parallels with bullying are obvious. This book is about how a character learns that the satisfaction of terrorizing others isn't nearly as wonderful as the satisfaction that comes from friendship.
Goggles by Ezra Jack Keats
Goggles by Ezra Jack Keats. Written during the 1970s, this picture book tells a story of Peter and his friend as they explore through the trash and find a pair of Goggles. Bigger kids try to take the goggles away from them, but with the help of their little dog Willie, they run away from the bullies.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
Kids can be cruel, even in kindergarten! This story is told with the classic humor and sensitivity that one expects from a Keven Henkes book.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes is the story of a young mouse-girl's journey into kindergarten, her unfortunate experience with being teased about her name by a group of girls in the class, and a music teacher who helps turn the situation around. This story gets 5 out of 5 stars for showing bullying in an entertaining and humorous way. Poor Chrysanthemum's parents are completely clueless, but fortunately, they care deeply. Hurray for Kevin Henkes and his sensitivity to this topic, even for very young grades.
Veronica's on Petunia's Farm
Veronica on Petunia's Farm by Roger Duvoisin is an unsettling book about bullying that occurs at, of all places, the farm yard with a friendly group of farmyard friends. But when Veronica, a hippo, moves in, the farm animals turn on Veronica as a group, deciding that she is not one of them. The other animals begin a cruel practice of exclusion and begin calling her "It". Only after Veronica stops eating and becomes ill do the animals reconsider their behavior and start treating her with kindness. This book has a particular quality of emotional intensity. Better than no other I know has the ability to show what bullying really looks like, and the effects on a victim of bullying. This book is appropriate for early and middle grades and is short enough to begin a discussion on bullying. While in real life, bullying situations don't often have happy endings, this book has a happy ending, and it was far ahead of its time in dealing with this issue.
Harry and the Terrible Whatzit by Dick Gackenbach
Another monster book that is also about bullying is Harry and the Terrible Whatzit by Dick Gackenbach. In this story, Harry confronts a monster in the depths of his basement, but when Harry faces the monster and hits it with a broom, he stops being afraid of him, the Whatzit starts to shrink until his very existence is threatened. This book about standing up to a monster bully can lead into a discussion of appropriate ways to deal with bullies.
Restart by Gordan Korman
Restart is an entertaining and humorous story about the biggest bully in middle school. Only he has fallen off a roof and lost his memory and his identity. His bullying was so terrible, his main victim moved to a private music school to get away. Now that the book's hero (or is he?) has a concussion and amnesia, can he become a different person—a more upstanding human being who joins the video club and makes friends with geeks? This book will be the source of some lively discussions. Is the book realistic? Can people change? And can people forgive? This book packs a high degree of emotional and moral complexity for a 256-page novel written for middle graders. It is funny, topical, and a good book to read if you want to talk about bullying in a middle-school setting.
Bullying Curriculum Resources
- The Committee For Children, a nonprofit organization organized to work against childhood abuse and violence, has several resources available to educators and families. Their free download section is worth investigating, as are their paid curriculum materials for elementary and secondary schools. These include Steps to Respect for elementary ages and Second Step, a program for middle school ages that addresses bullying, substance abuse, and violence.
- An excellent, concise, and free definition of bullying is available on the Olweus Bullying Prevention site. This site also shares links to state bullying laws. If your school or community organization does not include bullying prevention training as part of its professional development curriculum, this site offers a two-hour online bullying prevention course for educators for a low fee.
- The Steven Johnson Syndrome Foundation website contains excellent resources for parents, teachers, administrators, and students. The resources include information about bullying issues surrounding special needs populations.
- An excellent resource for parents, teachers, and kids is the Stopbullying.gov website. This site has short cartoon episodes depicting bullying issues, and they offer great talking points for parents or educators who want to open a discussion with their classroom. The site also includes a section for parents of kids who are being bullied or whose kids are engaged in bullying behaviors. I found the information in this site extremely helpful.
More Bullying Articles
- Bullying and How Schools Are Responding
How much of a problem is bullying in schools? Why do kids bully, and what can be done?