As a military family, my loved ones and I get to move every other year. And because of that, our now 7-year-old has had to change schools quite often (including preschool and kindergarten). It hurts my heart to write this, but he’s been having a rather rough time making friends in his classes. He’s always the new kid and doesn’t quite know how to fit in.
Bullying stories are the worst because you as a parent never really know how to help your little ones without seeming too protective to other parents and teachers.
But here’s the thing: Every child deserves the opportunity to have a successful learning experience. We need to build healthy classrooms and school cultures in which our kids can stand up for themselves and others who are being bullied. Only by creating safe environments will we prevent bullying behaviors that harm so many children.
Here are five books that parents can use to teach kids about bullying, an issue that often rears its head at the beginning of a new school year. By creating and sharing the book list below, I’m hoping to help parents and schools to be more effective in building skills and behaviors that support the respect we feel for each other and the level of empathy we employ.
In this book, kids discover that teasing is part of life, but that not all teasing is the same. “Laughing at someone has a hurtful bite, but laughing with someone is alright when it’s not done out of spite.”
This book is meant for 5–12-year-olds and sparks conversations about these difficult topics. Children learn the power of words and the importance of laughing with someone, not at them. It encourages kids to ask each other what type of teasing was used and whether it is okay.
2. The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
This beautifully illustrated book for 5–7-year-olds helps little ones get off to a great start in kindergarten.
This gentle story shows how small acts of kindness can help children feel included and allow them to flourish. A young boy feels like he isn’t a part of the classroom community and always feels left out. The illustrations and use of color depict the changing feelings of the boy.
Everybody wants to be included and acknowledged. This book is a wonderful conversation starter and brings forward a feeling that exists in every classroom.
3. The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up for Others by Bob Sornson & Maria Dismondy
This book is for 4–12-year-olds and helps our kids understand that they shouldn’t be scared to say something when they see unpleasant things happening to someone else.
The Juice Box Bully illustrates how to address, identify, and react to bullying before it becomes a problem. The book offers a nice way to teach kids about bullies as well as help them understand that sometimes bullying behavior is the result of something deeper.
4. Llama Llama And The Bully Goat by Anna Dewdney
Llama’s encounter with the bully goat teaches 2–6-year-old children different conflict situations they could experience and how to handle and combat bullying.
With a clear message on how someone feels when they are subjected to physical aggression, like hitting, this book provides little ones with a way to experience and discuss bullying in a safe and comforting way.
5. Stand Tall, Molly Lou Mellon By Patty Lovell
This adorable self-empowerment story for 4–8-year-olds shows how to view character and physical differences in a positive way and how to make sure little readers are proud of who they are.
“Be yourself like Molly Lou Melon no matter what a bully may do.” Kids struggling with being accepted at a new school will find this to be a comforting read.
It is never too early to teach our little ones about kindness and empathy and how our actions affect others’ feelings. And being able to stay true to oneself is such an important skill to develop in order to ensure our kids make the most of their gifts, talents, and weaknesses. The message of kindness and anti-bullying should be a strong one, repeated and enforced often.