Bullying is a problem. I can’t tell you how often the victims of bullying and relational violence come into my office. Often they are adults, well into their forties, still struggling with the deep wounds and insecurities of school-yard name calling and malice. Recently, my deep ire for bullies has surfaced due to the cacophony of caustic nonsense, aggression, and bigotry being spewed from the 2016 USA presidential campaign. It is terrible. For our children, it is dangerous and confusing.
As school starts, it is important to remember to begin talking to your children about bullying. The first step is actually communicating what is bullying. Maybe you think its obvious – it isn’t. Of all the many disheartening aspects of this election, the most startling has been the realization that many of us don’t actually know what bullying is, and consequently can’t possibly teach their children to (1) discern aggression and (2) seek safety or intervention. I am tempted here to make a Ronald Reagan pun about “trickle down” bullying – but it’s too true to be funny. When you endorse leadership that makes fun of intellectual disabilities and women, who threatens physical violence and encourages international espionage, you unwittingly proliferate schoolyard violence.
…but lets not get distracted
In this post I will share a few of my favorite anti-bullying books – books that not only boost confidence and endorse speaking out, but creatively depict bullying so that you can really get in there with your kiddos and start talking. I think parents will find support for productive discussion about the four major types of bullying (verbal, physical, social, and cyber). For more information on this, for questions and explanations that will help you capitalize on your picture books, I encourage you to check out the American Government’s (ironic, I know) anti-bullying campaign at www.stopbullying.gov. I pale in comparison to the excellent psychologists and social workers that are creating those excellent online anti-bullying resources. Alright! Now let’s get down to business. The new school year is right around the corner! Clicking on the links below gives me a commission (at no charge to you) so that I can keep this site up.
Noni Speaks up by Hartt-Sussman and Cote is a no-nonsense school yard drama. Noni, who believes that bullying is bad, and is able to identify a bully, is conflicted about speaking up to defend a boy who is being harassed. She contemplates her gains and losses, the social risks she might take by speaking up – and then she goes for it! She ends up making friends and winning respect. Great addition to the dialogue by @Tundrabooks, and an excellent address in the real difficulties in using your voice.
Stick and Stone by Berry and Lichtenheld is a perfectly illustrated book about an unlikely friendship between a stick and stone. Their friendship is forged in the fire of bullying, when Stone sticks up for..well…Stick. Their friendship unfolds from gratitude. Precious!
Willow Finds a Way by Button and Howells, is another straightforward book about standing up to bullies, being kind, and including others. When Willow notices that an attitude of exclusion is developing among her peers, she nips it right in the bud by speaking out and insisting on hospitality. It turns out, that so many of her friends were looking for someone to speak up, which is also a great lesson. Even when we think everyone is with the bully, the crowd can quickly turn toward kindness, and often times, it’s what they have been hoping for.
Imelda and the Goblin King by Briony May Smith is one of my favorite books about creating and protected a community of kindness. Also, this book is freaking beautifully illustrated. Wow. Flying Eye Books does not disappoint. It is about a little girl who lives on the edge of a forest enchanted by fairies. When a mean Goblin King shows up and captures the Fairy Queen, it is Imelda who must step up, be brave, and confront the Goblin.
I was just introduced to The Invisible Boy on Instagram and knew right away that is is very special. As a young, shy, and quiet boy, seeks to find recognition and friends, it is the kindness of others that puts color in his face and brings him to life. A GREAT book about exterior perspective taking, thinking about others, and empathy. Love this little ditty by Ludwig and Barton.
Alright! That concludes my list of great anti-bullying picture books. For more great book reviews, follow me on Instagram @afriendlyaffair or sign up for my newsletter! As always, I hope you pin the image above, tweet, and share. This world needs fewer bullies and more picture books!!