Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dear Bully

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday
Here at Teach Mentor Texts we are always looking for more ways to support teachers! We've found that teachers seem to be constantly on the lookout for great nonfiction. We know we are! To help with this undying quest for outstanding non-fiction, we are excited to participate in Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and The Nonfiction Detectives. Every Wednesday, you'll find a non-fiction review here - although it may not always be a picture book review. Please visit Kid Lit Frenzy and The Nonfiction Detectives to see what non-fiction others have to share, too.

Title: Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories
Author: Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones (editors) 
Publisher: Harper Teen 
Publication Date: September 2011 
Genre/Format: Non-Fiction/Short Story Collection
GoodReads Summary: Discover how Lauren Kate transformed he feeling of that one mean girl getting under her skin into her first novel, how Lauren Oliver learned to celebrate ambiguity in her classmates and in herself, and how R.L. Stine turned being the "funny guy" into the best defense against the bullies in his class.

Today's top authors for teens come together to share their stories about bullying—as silent observers on the sidelines of high school, as victims, and as perpetrators—in a collection at turns moving and self-effacing, but always deeply personal.
What I Think: I really think bullying is a problem..but here's the thing, when I started reading this book, I started to realize bullying isn't as simple or clear cut as I had maybe thought it was before. Now that I really think deeply about it, I feel like I lean towards defining bullying as big kids picking on little kids - either physically or mentally/emotionally. Obviously, it's much more than that...but it's actually waaaaaaay more than that. Reading the stories and insight in Dear Bully have made me truly stop and think about the different forms that bullying can take. Boys and girls can be bullies and be bullied. Something as seemingly trivial, like shutting someone out of a group of friends or giving someone a nickname in a split second but having that nickname stick like rubber cement, might seem too insignificant to be considered bullying, but it actually is.  
     Earlier this year, when I read Wonder by RJ Palacio, I had flashbacks to a girl who starting going to school with me in fourth grade when the elementary schools in our district combined for the intermediate grades. I read about Auggie and Julian and memories of this girl and myself flooded me. I clearly did not have the physical differences that Auggie has, but I still related to how Julian treated him. And don't we all have at least one person we can think of who made us feel yucky? Whether it was yucky or 100 times yucky - yucky is yucky. I'm not sure I had ever labeled my yucky person as a bully, but she totally was.
     What I love that this book addresses early on is the idea that we, as humans, have the capacity for compassion...but we learn the bullying behavior that exists. I recently found a YouTube video called The Empathic Civilisation that outlines how our brains truly are soft-wired for compassion and empathy. This book has it just right, we can empathize with others, but somewhere along the way we develop reasons and behaviors that don't reflect that. How sad, right? I hope readers pick up Dear Bully and stop and think about their actions - how do we treat others? how do we stand up for or defend others who are being bullied? how do we stand up for ourselves if we are bullied? We all need to stop and recognize our feelings and how others are making us feel but also to recognize when others need our help and, finally, how we are treating others. Just stop and think. Reflect on your interactions. How did you do? Can you be more compassionate?
     This leads me to Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. What does it really matter if one small act of bullying continues or happens or is ignored? While Dear Bully helps us recognize how even small things are true acts of bullying, Thirteen Reasons Why reminds us why even the smallest acts of bullying need tending to. In Thirteen Reasons Why, we can see how ultimately all the little things can add up to a giant impact on a person. Is it worth it to ignore or be passive in regards to any kind of bullying? No, we need to address it all. Share this book with readers, help them see bullying for what it really is, help them think about ideas for stopping bullying and brainstorm ideas for combatting bullying. It has to start somewhere, I think it starts with recognition that bullying isn't an isolated event and that we all need to stand up for ourselves and each other.
Read Together: Grades 7 - 12 
Read Alone: Grades 8 - 12 
Read With: Speak and Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Dreamland by Sarah Dessen, Please Ignore Vera Dietz by AS King, The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod (series) by Heather Brewer, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick, Wonder by RJ Palacio, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher 
Snatch of Text:  
"I realized that I'm so much more than those insecure bullies ever deemed me to be. I'm special, and weird, and wonderful, all rolled into one. And I always have been. I think on some level, they knew that, and it frightened them. Maybe because deep down, they knew that they weren't."p. 71, from Heather Brewer's The Secret
Mentor Text For: Personal Narrative, Narrative, Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you felt bullied - think about the stories that you read and how bullying can exist in many forms.  
Topics Covered: Bullying, Friendship, Love, Courage, Self-Esteem, Identity, Feelings, Emotions, Pain, Adversity, Triumph, Perseverance, Unity, Support, Denial, Acceptance, Compassion 
I *heart* It:
A ginormous thank you to Heather Brewer for sharing her story so candidly. 
I'm proud to be a minion for life.

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