Picture Books to help us explore the complexity of bullying

Division 5 is currently exploring the theme of bully, bullied, bystander through picture books. We also share books on this topic during our weekly Social Responsibility gatherings. Here are some of the titles we have been reading.

Jungle Bullies written by Steven Kroll and illustrated by Vincent Nguyen

This book has a simple repetetive message important to help children understand that bossy, mean behaviour isn’t okay especially when someone is using their bigger size to be intimidating. As each jungle animal nudges another out of a napping spot, the trend seems like it will never stop until a little monkey decides with the help of his Mama that he wants to stand up to a bully. Children learn: Being a bully isn’t okay. I can stand up to it with some help from others. Let’s focus on sharing and maybe even being friends. Perfect for Pre-K-2. 

Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns about Bullies written by Howard Binkow and illustrated by Susan F. Cornelison.

This is one of my favourite Howard B. Wigglebottom books and one that never fails to engage listeners. This book teaches us about the importance of asking for help when bullying doesn’t stop. Howard has a little voice inside his head that tells him Be brave, Be bold, A teacher must be told. But it isn’t always easy to trust our intuition and Howard suffers many unpleasant interactions with the Snorton twins before he finally decides to report their behaviour. Finally, he can sleep easily, knowing that he was brave, he was bold when his teacher was finally told. “I am okay. I am safe.” he assures himself at the end.  Such an important book!

Great for K-3

You’re Mean, Lily Jean written by Frieda Wishinsky and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. 

 This is a “could be”, “might be”, “kinda is” a bully book but the social dynamics between the children allow it to be a book that is more about making firm expectations for play. Lily Jean is definitely some kind of bossy and quite quite mean. She shows off constantly, says “No!” when asked “Can I play too?” and bosses everyone around when she does allow them to be part of the game. (“You be the cow and I’ll be the cowgirl” kind of thing) But when sisters Sandy and Carly are assertive with Lily Jean and set some limits, Lily Jean is basicallly put in her place with the question, “Can you be nice?” When she agrees, playtime continues and is happy for all involved. A great book to illustrate that children can often solve their own social problems without involving an adult. It also shows us that the power of a bully dissolves quickly when nobody will go along with it.

Ideal for K-3

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun written by Maria Dismondy and illustrated by Kimberly Shaw-Peterson.

The message of this book is all about courage – courage to stand up for yourself but also courage to forgive and reach out to others. Lucy has been bullied by Ralph in some truly nasty ways. When he gets stuck on the monkey bars, she has the opportunity to get back at him. Instead she realizes, looking at him so full of fear, that just like her Papa Gino told her, Ralph has a heart with feelings. Lucy offers her help, demonstrating courage to do the right thing – treat others the way she wants to be treated. Students learn that sometimes the hard shell of a bully can be softened with a little bit of kindness.

Suitable for Grades 2-4

Say Something written by Peggy Moss and illustrated by Lea Lyon.

What happens when you see bullying all around you? Pushing. Teasing. Name calling. But you don’t participate? You don’t say anything. What happens when one day the bullying happens to you? Those other kids sitting near, the ones saying nothing . . . suddenly the silence feels like something. It feels like it should be different. Saying nothing is the opposite of saying something. Of standing by instead of standing up. A very powerful book that shows us the importance of speaking up.

Suitable for Grades 2-5

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