Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Saturday, October 23, 2010


As parents, we try to find the teachable moments in most every situation in order to prepare our children for the bumpy road ahead. Bullying has always been one of those "teachable" issues but the recent stories about young people who have been bullied because of their sexual orientation - young people who in the wake of horrendous bullying felt they had no alternative to ending their own lives to find a way out - has brought a new urgency to dealing with the issue. I cannot imagine the pain born by the families and friends of the victims and I mean them no disrespect when I attempt to search for that teachable moment to guide my own children. I use these stories to impress upon my children that bullying is a broad term that encompasses so much more than they might have considered and, indeed, so much more than was even contemplated when I was their respective ages; and that it is more important than ever to consider our every word, our every action and our every keystroke with the utmost care. You can't erase the words you text or email and you can't control how someone else may interpret your tone so it is crucial to think carefully before hitting "send" or "post" or "reply".
It is important to maintain a level of respect and courtesy toward one another in all that we do and to always consider whether our actions, intentional or not, might be hurtful to another. I also use these stories to show my children that the good in people motivates them to be agents of change. If you have not visited the It Gets Better (Trevor) project website, I encourage you to do so and I thank my dear friend Lesley for bringing it to my attention. Take a look at the amazing way people are speaking up and speaking out to let young people who feel isolated, alone or bullied because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans-gender know that it gets better.
How much do I love the fact that the President of the United States posted a compelling video on this site?!

As parents, our task is two-fold. It is our responsibility to teach our children what bullying means and how it is never acceptable. We need to teach our children that they are part of a world that is greater and vaster than the reality they may know and that people in that world, even people right next door, are different in so many ways. We need to teach our children that difference is not to be feared or mocked or persecuted but, rather, embraced. It is also our responsibility to do the best we can to reinforce the message that our kids are loved, that they are not alone and that, when it is difficult and when it hurts and when they feel all alone in the world, it gets better.

The platform of our current National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, Katherine Paterson, is Read for Your Life. Katherine says:
Read for your life. Read for your life as a member of a family, as a part of a community, as a citizen of this country and a citizen of the world.
 Katherine Paterson, beloved author of such classics as Bridge to Terabithia and The Great Gilly Hopkins, encourages young people to explore and accept differences through books and to participate in the global community. Many children's books consider bullying or acceptance. The wonderful Massachusetts publisher, Candlewick Press, offers kids' books for all ages with some touching (and even funny) stories about bullying. These books feature memorable and relatable characters, provide new perspectives on an all-too-common phenomenon in schools and on playgrounds across the country, and help kids relate their own experiences or identify negative behavior on the page through story. It's a great start! My friends at Candlewick Press suggest:
  • Say Hello by Jack Foreman, illustrated by Michael Foreman (a picture book for ages 3-6 years) 
  • Andy Shane and the Very Bossy Dolores Starbuckle by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, illustrated by Abby Carter (Early Reader, Ages 508 years)  
  • A Certain Strain of Peculiar by Gigi Amateau (Middle Grade, Ages 12 and up)
  • Beat the Band by Don Calame(Teen/Young Adult, Ages 14 and up) 
This post is dedicated to the memory of Tyler Clementi and in honor of the family and friends who loved and accepted him.

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