Bullying awareness, prevention and intervention are important topics 365 days of the year. Taking place the third week of November, Bullying Awareness Week ensures this subject is given a much-deserved spotlight. This national campaign aims to reach the community at large to promote safe and positive relationships. Schools are encouraged to plan activities, create artwork and share stories in an effort to heighten understanding of the different forms and impacts of bullying.
As both an educator and parent, I believe that children's books play an important role in coaching our youth. Books often act as our friends, companions and teachers. They can entertain, educate and impart life lessons. Stories can also be introduced to students from a very young age and many of these stories carry meaning for years to come. That's the beauty of the books below -- they teach invaluable lessons topically, but can be explored further to uncover more sophisticated meanings.
Always in search of books that encourage the importance of friendship, courage and being true to oneself, here are five books that foster these very messages:
Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
For ages: 3-5
A favourite saying is that friends come in all shapes and sizes. This is demonstrated in Friendshape, a colourful picture book that will introduce young readers to the benefits of friendship. Parents and educators can shape the discussion by either resting at the core or delving deeper to discuss the virtues of promoting inclusion and acceptance of others. The moral of this story is that friends make us happy. At the end of the day, who can argue with that?
Written and Photographed by Jim and Jamie Dutcher
For ages: 4-8
It's an accepted fact that students may encounter bullying at school. However, it's often less acknowledged that bullying takes place in countless forms and places. Enter the true story of an animal who experiences bullying. Lakota is a shy wolf pup from the mountains of Idaho who encounters mistreatment in his wolf pack. His story is captured by documentarians, Jim and Jamie Dutcher, who observed and lived with wolves for six years and brought this unique story to National Geographic Kids. Lakota is ultimately befriended by a leader wolf Matsi and through this intervention develops increased self-esteem and confidence. Animal lovers of all ages will howl for Lakota and his quest to find happiness and friendship in the wild.
Written by Karma Wilson, Illustrated by Marcellus Hall
For ages: 4-8
There is a famous proverb, "If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck". In Duddle Puck this known saying is challenged by a little puddle duck who will not conform to the expectations of his farm animal friends. This puddle duck refuses to quack and to their dismay likes to cluck, honk, oink and neigh. This charming story of a cheeky role model is an opportunity to teach youngsters about being true to oneself -- regardless of peer pressure to change.
Written by Mariangela Di Fiore, Translated by Rosie Hedger, Illustrated by Hilde Hodnefjeld
For ages: 8-11
Students are often encouraged to learn from the past to create a better present and future. This can be accomplished with Elephant Man, a unique biographical book based on the true life of Joseph Merrick. Readers will explore bullying with a historical example of a young man born in England in 1862 who developed severe physical deformities. As a result of his appearance, he is branded with a cruel nickname -- Elephant Man. Rejected by his family and having difficulty with employment, Joseph is ultimately encouraged to go on tour where he is put on display like a circus freak. Fortunately for Joseph, he meets some kind people along the way who recognize his inner beauty. This story is a positive example of the power of friendship to overcome and conquer the negative impacts of bullying.
Written by Shane Koyczan, Illustrated by various artists
For ages: 11 and up
Some books are so special they are worth featuring more than once. This is how I feel about To This Day which to me is the national anthem of Bullying Awareness Week. Shane Koyczan took his pain in adolescence from being bullied and ultimately becoming a bully, and with tremendous passion transformed it into poetry. This spoken word poem has been adapted into a picture book with the help of artists arounds the world who created illustrations to match the moving words. For additional inspiration, I recommend playing the audio in the background with Shane's narrative while flipping through the pages to truly experience the profound power of this anti-bullying poem.
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