Lester Laminack and many others have helped to bring teachers’ attention to the need for talking about bullying in elementary schools. Is there a grade that’s too early to begin these conversations? I don’t think so. I was recently in a kindergarten classroom where I was invited to be a guest reader. At the kindergarten level, conversations about bullying usually include: not calling other kids names, not making fun of kids who are different from you in any way, appreciating and valuing differences, standing up if another child is being treated badly, and so on.
I read Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell. Molly Lou is extremely tiny, has large eyes and buck teeth, a voice like a frog, and is very clumsy. But she had a wonderful grandma who taught her to believe in herself, smile, stand tall, and sing out no matter how it sounds. She uses grandma’s advice when confronted with the class bully who makes fun of her. I merely stopped at a mid-point and at the end of the book to allow the kids time to turn and talk to a partner. Then several students shared out what they were thinking.
The second book was called One, by Kathryn Otoshi. I love this book and love to see how the kids interpret it. All of the characters are colors, with Red playing the role of the bully who picks on Blue. The other colors are friends with Blue, but never stand up to Red. Finally ONE comes along and teaches them all to stand up to bullies. It ends happily with the bully joining the group of friends.
I left one other book in the class for the teacher to read at another time. The Recess Queen, by Alexis O’Neill is another book on the topic of bullying. Jean is a bossy girl on the playground who tries to control everyone, but the spunky little Katie Sue doesn’t buy into her methods. In her own friendly, patient way, Katie Sue changes Mean Jean for the better.
This experience, of beginning conversations on the topic of bullying with very young children, reminded me of an exceptional book I read years ago. I highly recommend That’s Not Fair! A Teacher’s Guide to Activism with Young Children, by Pelo and Davidson if you are a pre-school or K teacher and interested in matters of fairness, gender inequality, and many other social justice issues (I noticed you can buy it used for under $4 on Amazon.)
Please comment if you have stories to share about conversations with your students on the topic of bullying and what to do about it.