The third week of November marks Bullying Awareness & Prevention Week in Ontario. Many schools across the province will commemorate this week with important discussions and positive learning activities. As parents, how can we further these conversations at home? Especially with our little ones who may be experiencing school for the first time?
Bullying can be a heavy discussion, especially with our little ones who are learning to recognize and navigate their emotions. Kindergarten might be their first exposure to wider groups of peers, as well as diverse personalities. It's important to start these conversations young, but in a way that makes sense with our littles.
I always say that the right picture book can help facilitate tough conversations with little kids. Recognizing themselves in stories, or learning about others through fictional characters can help build vocabulary and understanding of many important topics.
For the 3-5 year age range, the conversation is less about bullying and more about kindness, empathy, cooperation, and acceptance. There are some great picture books that cover these concepts, and this week I'm sharing three that check off all the boxes.
Written & illustrated by Kevin Henkes, Chrysanthemum, is a classic that has been around for two decades, and continues to resonate with readers because of how it acknowledges the individual identities that make up our diverse peer groups.
The story follows a little mouse, named "Chrysanthemum", who experiences some teasing at school because of her name. She always thought her name was absolutely perfect, until her classmates point out all the ways that her name is "flawed". Her confidence begins to wilt, and she starts to believe what her classmates are saying.
Henkes details Chrysanthemum's progression from confident to self-doubting, and to eventual re-discovery. This character evolution is done in a simple way for little readers to understand, while also promoting empathy for Chrysanthemum's struggles.
In the end, with the help of a music teacher who has a similar name, the classmates realize just how special Chrysanthemum's name really is, (and how special everyone's name is). The lesson of acceptance and open-mindedness rings loud and clear. In addition, the story is a reminder of how we should celebrate each other's uniqueness rather than picking it apart.
I just love the little mouse illustrations and traditional drawing style throughout the book. The book's overall aesthetic reminds me of a folktale that can sit on your bookshelf as a collector's item.
The Invisible Boy
Written by Trudy Ludwig & illustrated by Patrice Barton, The Invisible Boy, is a great way to introduce kids to small acts of kindness and promote inclusivity in the classroom.
The story follows a little boy, named Brian, who is shy and feels invisible at school. He is often excluded by his classmates and spends his time drawing on his own. Little readers are immediately drawn into Brian's character as he feels sad, alone, and dismissed.
One day, a new boy joins the class and Brian witnesses his classmates teasing the new boy. He wonders to himself, "which is worse - being laughed at or feeling invisible"?Brian decides to reach out to the new boy through one of his drawings, (an easier way for Brian to communicate as a shy boy). The message was received and embraced by the new boy, and an unexpected friendship begins to emerge.
The newly found friends pair up for a school project and his classmates start taking notice of Brian. It's a heartwarming story about friendship, kindness, and inclusivity.
I love the way Brian's character is initially drawn in a faded sketch throughout the pages, but then emerges in full colour as his character becomes accepted into his peer group. It's a visual representation for little readers to understand the feelings of isolation, and the huge impact small acts of kindness can make on a person.
I'm Like You, You're Like Me
Written by Cindy Gainer & illustrated by Miki Sakamoto, I'm Like You, You're Like Me, is a great resource for teachers and kids about understanding and appreciating each other's diverse qualities.
Throughout the book, you are introduced to a diverse group of children who encourage each other and celebrate each other's differences. Varying examples are portrayed such as, celebrating different holidays, having different hobbies, listening to each other's opinions, and cooperating in teams.
Positive language and diverse illustrations help bring to life the concept that our differences should be appreciated and celebrated because that's what makes us interesting and special. We can learn from listening to each other, and observing each other's unique qualities.
The back of the book breaks down different topics that you can discuss with your child:
Understanding of Self & Others
As we enter into Bullying Awareness & Prevention Week, I hope these pictures books help inspire fruitful conversations with your little readers.
Be kind, and as always...happy reading!