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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dear Bully, edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones. Harper, 2011. $10.99 ages 10 and up

"I don't know. I hope so. Because being a bully is easy, and being a victim is all too common. But standing on your own safe middle ground and deciding to reach out where you can make a difference? That is a rare and difficult choice.
Make the choice. Do something. Never shut up. I wish I had."

I think that this is a book that should have a place on the desk of every middle years and high school teacher...and we need to be reading what these seventy thoughtful, capable, honored authors have to say about their experiences with bullying. It is eye-opening and needs to be shared!

Their stories begin with an introduction by Ellen Hopkins:

"Chubby or skinny; geek smart or challenged; gay or perceived that way; black, brown, yellow, or any color other than the person hurling insults. Any of these things can make someone a target."

In light of the stories of suicide recently in the news, we need to consider this appalling statistic:

"A child commits suicide as a direct result of being bullied once every half hour, with 19,000 bullied children attempting to commit suicide over the course of one year."

That's 36,00 children dying, or wanting to be dead, because of bullying! The authors who here share their stories have decided to take a stand, the editors have pledged a portion of the proceeds for the book to be donated to Stomp Out Bullying. Check out the website at A new story is added every week, and it offers ongoing news about the project itself.

And now to the essays....

They are organized in sections: Dear Bully, Just Kidding, Survival, Regret, Thank You, Friends, Insight, Speak, Write It and finally, It Gets Better. The stories are as varied as their categories. Some will break your heart, some will make you sing. Each and every one of them will make you think about bullying, its lasting effects, and perhaps some of the ways we can work to stop it. They show children that they are not alone. They don't promise it will stop. But, by reading some of the stories, they may provide strength and hope to someone who is feeling weak and hopeless. They may have bullied, been bullied or watched bullying behaviors. Whatever their earlier experience it has affected who they have come to be. They share their feelings with poignant and powerful insight.

There is no easy answer. If there were, we would have no need to publish, or to read, this book. It doesn't have the solutions we seek. It does have voices for those who need to hear those voices spoken. Bullying is not restricted to children, as many of you will well know. As we get older, we care less and prepare ourselves better to deal with such people. If we stand TOGETHER, we can make a difference. If we don't feel alone in dealing with such tactics, we find power and the determination to make a difference. These stories help us see that. In expanding our collective knowledge of the issues, we begin to take some responsibility for our own actions. What can be better than that for our children, and for our students?

Read these stories and savor them. Share them and keep sharing them. It's a huge undertaking and oh so, necessary.

"Picking on others is a learned behavior. The kid who manifests violence had learned violence somewhere. Too often, that somewhere is home. Parents should teach their children to respect diversity. But if they won't, others must step in. It does take a village to raise a child who embraces all people, regardless of their differences. Which means we must take action whenever we suspect bullying. Does that make you uncomfortable?"

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