October 25 — 12:19 pm, 2017

Celebrate Unity Day today with these books promoting compassion and speaking up

October is National Bullying Prevention Month.

What initially started as a weeklong event is now a nationwide attempt for Americans to come together and unite for inclusion, acceptance, tolerance, and kindness.

In 2006, the Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center designated October as National Bullying Prevention Month.

Bullying is unwanted aggression in the form of cyber, physical, social and verbal abuse. It is an ongoing problem for some children in their homes, schools, neighborhoods, and in cyberspace. Adults in the workplace can also be subjected to bullying.

In most cases, being bullied makes victims feel helpless. Oftentimes, they fear the backlash of potentially being socially isolated.

According to research, 64 percent of children being bullied don’t report it.

Safety is paramount for children to learn and grow. Therefore, I am petitioning everyone to work diligently toward creating a culture that stops bullying before it starts. 

Here are some indicators that a child may be being bullied: unexplained injuries, changes in eating and sleeping habits, exponential drop in grades, low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts.

On the flip side, these signs indicate someone who may have bullying tendencies: shows defiance, shows aggression, seeks to control others, blames others for their problems, and lacks respect for authority.

I’m asking everyone to join me today, Unity Day, Oct. 25, 2017, to speak up against bullying everywhere, and I invite you to read the following four children’s books. They carry big messages about respect, fortitude, compassion, kindness, self-esteem, and speaking up.

Finally, we must understand that true democracy is knowing that your rights stop where someone else’s rights begin.  

Book suggestions

• Written by Patty Lovell, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon is a story about a little girl who stands no taller than her dog. She has buck teeth, huge goofy eyes, and a voice that sounds like a bullfrog. Her grandmother tells her to walk proud, smile big, believe in herself, and the world will believe in her, too. These words of wisdom build Molly’s self-esteem, and when Ronald Durkins makes fun of her, she knows exactly how to handle him.    

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
Author: Patty Lovell
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: 2001
Age: 4-8
Grade: PreK-3

The Hundred Dresses, written by Eleanor Estes, is a classic Newbery honor book, written in 1944. It is a tale about a poor and friendless Polish American girl named Wanda Petronski. When the children in Wanda’s class notice that every day she wears the same dress to school, they begin to tease her. One day during recess, Wanda overhears the girls talking about the beautiful clothes they have and she tells them she has 100 dresses.

Of course, no one believes her. Instead, Maddie, the best-dressed girl, mocks her, and the other children join in — even her best friend Peggy, who secretly wishes she could speak up on Wanda’s behalf.

The game stops the day of the art contest, which Wanda wins because of her beautiful creations of 100 dresses. Winning the art contest makes her the most admired student in the class.  

The moral of this story is that it’s not what you have that defines you, but rather, who you are on the inside.

The Hundred Dresses
Author: Eleanor Estes
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace
Publication Date: 1944
Age: 8-10
Grade: 3-5

The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill is a story about the classroom bully who also rules on the schoolyard. She is so mean that the children nicknamed her Mean Jean. At recess, no one dares play on the swings, bounce the balls, or jump rope until Mean Jean goes first.

That is, until the new kid, Katie Sue, stands up to Mean Jean and dethrones her with kindness.

The Recess Queen
Author: Alexis O’Neill
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: 2002
Age:4-8
Grade: PreK-2

• Laurie Halse Anderson, the author of Speak, writes about a very sensitive and disturbing subject. In the fall, Melinda will be starting her freshman year of high school. To celebrate, she attends an end-of-summer party hosted by an upperclassman. Everything goes well until this very popular upperclassman rapes her. When Melinda calls the police, they shut down the party, and no one wants to talk to her.  Immediately, she is ostracized and left to deal with her pain in silence.

It is not until the guidance counselor notices that Melinda’s grades have dropped that she reaches out, helping Melinda break her silence and begin to heal.

Speak
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux
Publication: 1999
Age: 12 and up
Grade: 7th and up

You can find more resources at these anti-bullying organizations:

The Trevor Project

It Gets Better Project

The Jed Foundation

Kind Campaign

Stomp Out Bullying

Born This Way Foundation

Robin Muldor-Engram is a former children’s librarian for the Free Library of Philadelphia whose mission is to guide learning and to promote quality childhood achievements.

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