It can happen anywhere. Class. The playground. The park. Camp. Life isn’t the same when someone fears being bullied. People have become more aware of how this impacts kids, and there is a government website from the Department of Health and Human Services to inform people about bullying and to provide suggestions on what to do about it.
No one who we see in outreach exists in a bubble. Wouldn’t it be lovely if the only thing they had to do was listen to us with rapt attention? Sometimes, reality gets in the way of such fantasies. Okay, always. The goal of library outreach is to “meet people where they are.” That doesn’t just mean showing up at their school. That means addressing the concerns that they have in an empathetic way.
Last week, I wrote about how a book can help people cope with tragedy. This blog post is about information we have to help when they face ongoing intimidation or threats.
There are ways that our digital resources can help students who are feeling harassed. Using EBSCOHOST’s Primary Search database, typing in the term “bullying” garners 163 full-text magazine articles from 2009 to now that are written on an elementary school level. Just one or two of those articles can help a student feel less alone and more prepared to deal with uncomfortable situations.
Also, books can be wonderful for helping children and teens feel both not alone and empowered to deal with their situations. Below are suggestions that I have for a range of ages. (I have chosen the age designation based on reviews from Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly and School Library Journal reviews as quoted at www.kclibrary.org).
This charming book introduces the concept of bullying via colors that serve as the story’s characters. Red treats Blue meanly and the other colors do not stand up for him. While Red grows in size with each unopposed mean act, the colors, urged by confident One, change into numbers when they confront Red. Supported by his friend, Blue discovers self-confidence. Will Red begin treating the others with respect to earn acceptance and count, too? Read this book to young listeners to plant an anti-bullying stance within them.
Grades Two to Five: The Weird! Series (Weird!: A story about standing up to bullying in schools, Tough!: A story about how to stop bullying in schools, and Dare!: A story about dealing with bullying in schools ) by Erin Frankel/ Illustrated by Paula Heaphy
Each book in this set is told from the perspective of someone impacted by bullying—the target, the bystander, and the person doing the bullying. Fantastic illustrations capture what is important to each girl and what motivates them. Readers gain insight into what spurs each person to do what she does, and this encourages empathy in difficult situations. Also, at the end of each book, there is an acrostic with the title of each book and notes from the viewpoint of each protagonist. Following this, there is a suggested activity and a set of discussion prompts for parents, teachers, and caregivers.
This book alternates between handwritten journal entries from Eric, the sixth grader designated the class “Grunt” and the typed entries of a book called “The Bully Book.” It serves as a guide to kids who want to avoid being the class scapegoat by making life miserable the bully book for someone else. How does being bullied impact Eric’s school year and his friendships? What does he learn from the experience? How can he prevent others from facing the same fate? In addition to featuring believable characters and situations, this book serves as a fantastic starting point for discussions about the questions that I just asked.
The protagonist of this book, Piddy Sanchez, faces constant intimidation and eventual violence when she transfers to a new school. The reasons for this seem relatively arbitrary, but Piddy’s new friend keeps her apprised of the danger she faces, both from Yaqui and her group of pals. The constant fear that Piddy experiences affect her grades and her health. Set in a low-income, heavily Hispanic neighborhood, the setting serves as its own character. As a part of this community, with the support of her hard-working mother and her mom’s fun best friend, Lila, will reader’s’get to see Piddy take back control over her own life? What does this tale demonstrate about our own challenges and strengths?
Summary: Bullying happens everywhere, but libraries offer examples and suggestions that empower people to make decisions that stop them from being targets, bystanders, or perpetrators of this behavior.
Anna Francesca Garcia earned her Master of Library and Information Sciences Degree from the University of North Texas and has worked for over nine years in public libraries in Nevada and Missouri. She is going to check out the Weird! series to share with her almost-seven-year old daughter because she loves discussions and believes that knowledge is power.