You may be aware that October is National Bullying Prevention Month — and today marks the second annual Spirit Day, for which supporters are asked to wear purple (social-network avatar-tinting works, too!) to honor the memory of any child who felt they had to take his/her own life in order to end the pain and suffering s/he experienced as a victim of bullying. Acknowledging the young lives lost is a pretty powerful reason to "go purple" and just stop and think about what you can do to help the situation.
Of course the most powerful tool we have to fight bullying is education. Teaching children and adults about the problem, how to handle the problem, and — when possible — how to prevent the problem is essential to making a dent in it. There are many fine organizations dedicated to addressing the issue (I am partial to this one) and many educators and parents out there doing their part. But the issue is so pervasive that it can seem too big to tackle.
One no-brainer thing you can do to help educate a child, or even yourself, about the effects of bullying? Give or read — or give AND read! — a book written for kids that highlights the topic! Children can learn so much from both novels featuring realistic bullying situations and nonfiction books that offer strategies for dealing with the issue. Positive books about friendship also help kids internalize what to look for and accept (or not) in peer-to-peer relationships.
Some titles I recommend to read, share, and discuss:
Blubber by Judy Blume
Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories, edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones
Frenemies: Dealing with Friend Drama by L. L. Owens (Yes, this is mine; and, no, this is not why I blogged today. I added it to the list because I realized it truly is relevant to it — and the cover is purple-purple-purple.)
Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord
Letters to a Bullied Girl: Messages of Healing and Hope by Olivia Gardner, Emily Buder, and Sarah Buder
The Skin I'm In by Sharon Flake
Speak by Laura Halse Anderson
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Why Is Everybody Always Picking on Me? A Guide to Handling Bullies by Terrence Webster-Doyle
Now. Let's hear it for the kids Spirit Day helps us remember. Let's resolve to help the kids still with us.
What can we do? Give them a book. Start a conversation. Let them know we're here if they want to talk. Step in and help them when they need us to. Lead by example. Don't be a bully. Step up and say something when we see bullying. Go purple if we feel like it. And remember to shout (or just think really hard), "Go, Purple!"