The call to action today, on National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence. is ‘Take Action Every Day.’ The type of community in which we want to live is everybody’s responsibility and feeling safe whether in the schoolyard or out in the world, is important. Books are a powerful teaching tool for parents and carers, offering opportunity for conversations about life, adversity, resilience, the uniqueness of the individual and of the benefits of working for the common good.
Here is a short list of picture books that show our children how to help make our schools and our world, safer places.
Clive Eats Alligators by Alison Lester
Teaches acceptance of difference and the uniqueness of the individual.
We are both the same and different and we are the same because we are different! Clive eats alligators, wears alligator T-shirts and likes to paint. By contrast, my favourite character in the book Rosie, eats eggs and bacon, wears cowboy boots and likes to play on the swing. What do your children like to eat, wear and play? And how are they different from their friends? Difference and diversity are positives that make us who we are. Clive and his friends can teach children to be accepting of themselves and others.
Hark Its Me Ruby Lee by Lisa Shanahan
Teaches acceptance of self and demonstrates the importance of social connections through the wonderful friendship between Ruby Lee and George Papadopoulos.
Ruby Lee teaches our children about identity. In the book Ruby learns how to be herself, not Sienna or Vienna, or Adelaide-Kiev. But it does take Ruby losing George Papadopoulos on the monkey bars to learn this lesson. While we encourage our children to look out for others, the story can help them discover that we find happiness when embrace who we truly are.
Who Sank The Boat? by Pamela Allen
Teaches the concept of personal responsibility within the group and for the outcomes of the group. It encourages conversations with children about common good.
This wonderful story is funny and full of both life lessons and reading lessons. In asking the question, who sank the boat, we can lead children to an understanding of personal responsibility. If we want to have a good outcome we need to think beyond our own ride in the boat. When no one took responsibility for their part in the sinking in this story, they all got wet! Now if that’s not a life lesson, then I don’t know what is!
Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey
Reminds us that there’ll always be a Pig to contend with, but we can only control our own behaviour. In life, karma may or may not get its way as it does in this story, but a conversation about the way in which Trevor handles himself despite Pig’s greedy and selfish nature is a lesson in itself. We are responsible for our own response to the world and we influence our world by our attitudes and words.
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
This book is so important because it tells us loudly that sometimes you just have to outsmart the bullies! We feel such affinity with the little mouse, who, despite having the odds stacked against him, manages to outsmart not one but four creatures who would happily eat him for lunch. He manages to survive and we find him at the end quietly enjoying his nuts, with the bullies all in hiding. Humour is a powerful tool in building resilience and resilience is a powerful tool in combating bullying. The Gruffalo and many other fantastic children’s books use humour brilliantly to tell their story and present their message.
Books and stories open the doors to family conversations and life learning. On this day dedicated to national action against bullying, we are reminded to use the power of story to teach our children about their own uniqueness, about diversity, acceptance, personal responsibility and common good. When children have an awareness of these attributes and attitudes in themselves and others, we make their world a safer place. When they have personal belief and are strong in themselves they are more likely to a take affirmative action against bullies by informing adults or not joining in and they are more likely to find common ground within the diversity of the classroom.
Mary Ryan is a teacher with over 30 years’ experience in school and system leadership. You can find Mary on Facebook at @teacheratthegate a place where expert teachers partner with parents to better understanding their children’s journey through school.