Anti-Bullying Awareness Month

Bullying seems to be running rampant in our schools today.  Not only are kids verbally and physically abused, but media and social networking has made it possible to humiliate someone on a national level.  According the The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, kids who are bullied suffer from low self-esteem and depression in adulthood and are more likely to drop out of school.  They also found that kids who are identified as bullies by the age of 8 are six times more likely to have a criminal conviction by adulthood.  Clearly bullying is bad on either side of the equation.  I’m a big believer of connecting with books, so here are a few titles that have come out in the last couple months that I think would make great discussion on the ramifications of bullying.

Keep Holding On by Susan Colasanti.  June, 2012.  9780670012251.  Gr. 9-12.

All 16 year-old Noelle wants to do is keep her head down and make it to the end of the school year without being noticed, but it’s hard to do when you’re the target of bullies everyday. Forced to face ridicule during school and a neglectful mother at night, Noelle doesn’t know what to do when her crush Julian Porter starts paying attention to her. Should she take a chance and risk breaking her heart or play it safe the same as always? But when a tragedy strikes at school, Noelle learns the importance of standing up for yourself.

This is a great title to discuss bullying and the affects it has on its victims.  I think many readers will see a little of themselves in Noelle even if they’re not in her same situation.  Colasanti also does a fantastic job of character development and showing how much Noelle grows throughout the novel thanks to supportive friends and an internal desire to make her life better.  I liked the added element of the neglectful mother because it shows how kids aren’t always just bullied at school, but in their homes as well, and that there are measures kids can take to stop both kinds of bullying.

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman.  September, 2012.  9780763658076.  Gr. 9-12.

Leslea Newman was scheduled to speak at the University of Wyoming’s Gay Awareness Week five days after Matthew Shepard’s brutal attack. These poems reflect her desire to replace hate with compassion and understanding. Each moving poem reflects the feelings or events surrounding Matthew’s attack. From the fence that held him through the night to the the people who held protestors back from his funeral, readers will never forget these powerful poems.

This is one of those books that when you finish reading it, you can’t do anything else but think about it for a while.  The poems are so powerful and I loved the way Newman told them from multiple perspectives such as the fence Matthew was tied to, the deer that stayed with him throughout the night, even the moon watching the horror unfold from above.  I think this book will bring out good discussion with students and may lead them to write poems about their experiences as well.

Lindsey L.