October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Bullying is something we all recognize. It’s in our daily lives, as well as in the books we read. Every story has at least one character behaving badly. We love to root for the protagonist to teach the tormentor a lesson. Reading about fictious bullies, or social injustices, can help us find ways to deal with difficult situations in real life. The “distance” lets us to rehearse what actions should be taken.
Children’s literature is also filled with bullying and cruelty on the part of its characters. (Think Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter and almost everybody in Lord of the Flies.) A discussion of what happens between the characters can be an effective tool to help targeted students, bewildered bystanders, and even active bulliers understand the dynamics of bullying. By talking about how one person’s actions affect another person, children can begin to understand that stopping bullying benefits everybody and is everybody’s responsibility.
In the classic children’s book, Black Beauty, English author Anna Sewell wrote, “If we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt.” Although written in 1877, these are words today’s children should hear.