There were three kinds of kids who hurt me.
Those who hit me,
Those who lied on me,
And those who just watched…..I forget…….which one were you?
Well, I wonder how many times I watched and didn't do anything or didn't do enough.
Once again, I owe a big thank you to Lesley for her post below the pictures.
In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Education defined bullying as unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance and is repeated or has a high likelihood of repetition. According to stopbullying.gov, a federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are two modes of bullying: direct and indirect (spreading rumors), and there are four types of bullying: physical, verbal, relational, and damage to property. The newest type of bullying is electronic bullying or cyberbullying, which involves primarily verbal aggression and relational aggression.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics, 28% of U.S. students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying. In surveys, 30% of young people admit to bullying others. In one large study, about 49% of children in grades 4–12 reported being bullied by other students at school at least once during the previous month, whereas 30.8% reported bullying others during that time.
It is imperative that teachers and especially students discuss bullying more in schools, especially in the middle grades where research shows that the most bullying takes place, and especially because many bullies and victims of bullying do not even recognize that bullying is occurring. “What the Olweus survey identifies as the top three types of bullying—verbal abuse, exclusion, and spreading rumors—kids can see as normal and essentially harmless behavior." These conversations occur more effectively though the reading of novels and memoirs. Students are more inclined to talk about how characters handled or mishandled situations than to analyze their own actions or those of their peers. When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time.
It is crucial that adolescents experience bullying and the effects of bullying, not in real life, but through novels such as the 15 novels presented below. Novels such as these can generate important conversations that adolescents need to have and share truths that they need to see; these stories provide not only a mirror to those who are similar to them but windows into those they may see as different from them, and, even more significantly, present maps to guide adolescents in ways to work through conflicts and challenges and maps to show them where they may become lost. Novels can help readers gain knowledge of themselves and empathy for others.
In addition to the statistics above, a study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying and that 10 to 14 year old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide. As the social hierarchy intensifies in middle school, girls form cliques and can get meaner. PBS Parenting explains that much of this behavior stems from the intense desire to belong, the need to feel powerful, and the conditioning that many girls have to not express their feelings directly. Some girls function as leaders, others as followers, and the rest live outside the groups.
In this powerful verse novel, Kana Goldberg, an American middle school girl, feels guilty when Ruth, a classmate, commits suicide:
should I have said something when I saw you at the mall?
should I have sat across from you at lunch in the cafeteria?
should I have invited you to be in my group in science
or my critique partner in art?
Kana reflects on the social hierarchy in her eighth grade class:
arranged in shells
Becca and Mona
first shell solid
the rest of us
in orbitals farther out
in the least stable
Kana was not only a bystander. She acknowledges that Lisa was mean to Ruth and
Kana’s Japanese mother and Jewish American father send her to her maternal grandmother’s mikan orange farm for the summer to “reflect in the presence of [her] ancestors.” While there, she learns to farm, becomes part of the family and community, and learns the rituals of her Japanese culture, but most importantly she reflects on her actions and those of her clique and thinks about Ruth and what happened and where to place blame because they didn’t understand her.
what I wanted to know was
if depression is so common
is depressions was a possibility
for someone like you, Ruth
then why didn’t they teach us about it?
Kana finally realizes that the list of what they didn’t do--
end the texting
talk with you
laugh with you
listen to you
…seems so basic and short.
There is another tragedy associated with the bullying and, through the rituals surrounding death Kana practices with her relatives and the Japanese community, she returns home with ideas of ways to create a memorial to the friends who were tragically affected by the bullying—and to help, not just the girls but the entire 8th grade class, to “go on.”
Save Me a Seat is a novel about bullies, victims, bullying, and standing up to bullies. A study conducted by The Youth Voice Project, the first known large-scale research project that solicited students’ perceptions about strategy effectiveness to reduce peer mistreatment in our schools, found, “Our students report that asking for and getting emotional support and a sense of connection has helped them the most among all the strategies we compared” and conversely, “Peers were reported as being able to have a significant negative effect by blaming or making fun of mistreated youth.” (Roessing, No More “Us” and “Them”: Classroom Lessons & Activities to Promote Peer Respect).
Joe, a student with APD or Auditory Processing Disorder, is bullied by his fellow fifth graders, especially Dillon Samreen. When Ravi moves from India to America, he assumes that the other fifth graders will be impressed by his intelligence and athleticism, but all they notice is his accent and other ways he is different. Ravi assumes that Dillion, being Indian-American, will be his friend but finds himself also the target of his bullying and his classmates’ laughter.
There are many novels that focus on bullying, but what I found most important about Save Me a Seat is that Ravi does not realize that in his school in India where he is was one of the popular crowd, if he was not actually a bully himself, he was unkind to other students and stood by, laughing, when students were bullied by others.
In the novel when Ravi finally sees that "There is more to [Joe] than meets the eye" and that he is the victim of bullying; he comes to the conclusion, “I don’t need to show off anymore. I’m not like Dillon Samreen and I never will be,” and he stands up for Joe
The characters in Save Me a Seat are fifth graders. According to research, most bullying occurs in grades 6-8. Perhaps if enough students read and discuss this novel in fifth grade, those statistics will change.
Relationships are built over time, but how much can they withstand? Jake Green and Sameed Madina have always been friends. They have grown up together; they run together; they play war games together; they have each other backs; they plan to always remain friends “but only till Martians invade the earth.”
But then the events of September 11, 2001, occurred, and Martians did invade the earth, only they looked like Sam and his family—Muslim. Because one of the terrorists had lived in their neighborhood and was a client at the bank where Mr. Madina worked, Sam’s father comes under FBI surveillance, and the neighborhood divides in their support. Not Jake, though. He believes in his friend and his friend’s family, physically fighting the school bully who refers to Sam as a “towelhead” and standing up to his father who apologizes to the bully’s father, an adult bully himself, and to his mother who refuses to support the Madinas, longtime friends and neighbors.
What I appreciated about Just a Drop of Water is that is illustrates another way 9/11 has affected people, especially those Muslim adolescents who populate American schools everywhere. I strongly feel that students should not only be learning about the events and effects of 9/11, but that readers learn more about how events affect people and especially children their ages and have caused many Muslim children, and adults, to become the target of bullying. Other novels—Nora Raleigh Baskin’s Nine: Ten: A September 11 Story, Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Towers Falling, and Wendy Mills’ All We Have Left—also present Muslim characters affected by the events of September 11, 2001.
The Revealers presents bullying as the entire focus of the novel—not just a side issue. The story emphasizes the efficacy of cooperative action when three students who are bullied collaborate on facing bullying with nonviolent action, scientifically studying why students bully. They publish their experiences, and others begin sharing their stories as victims and bullies to be posted on school-wide media.
The book highlights creative solutions to problems, using the scientific method, and the three students’ research—in cooperation with many members of the student body, including the school’s most feared bully—becomes a science fair exhibit which brings the problem to the notice of the principal and a school board member. The novel highlights the problem of administrative denial and even acceptance, which, unfortunately, is too realistic.
Patterson ("Stick") is a football player, but with the overwhelming pressure from his father and his coach, he has lost the love of playing. Preston is an individual who has no friends but lives life on his own terms as he struggles with the guilt and trauma of his father's death; to compensate, he dresses as a superhero and, in disguise, he helps others in need. When the two teens become friends, Preston encourages Stick to decide if he wants to remain on the team. His decision to quit appears to derail his life when his father kicks him out of the house and his former friends on the team savagely bully not only him but also Preston. Taking charge of his life actually helps Patterson get back on track, a track that follows his heart and helps him save his father. The relationship between Stick and Preston shows the importance of standing up for others and how that action can lead to standing up for oneself.
Camo Girl is an important story, written for readers in Grades 5 and up. Ella and Z are sixth-grade outcasts, and they are best friends. But they are not best friends because they are outcasts; they are there to support each other against bullies—no questions asked, no matter how weirdly Z acts and how Ella looks. When a new student befriends Ella, she thinks she may have to choose between popularity and her friendship with Z, but just maybe the popular Bailey, who has his own view of reality, can help both of them. This novel provides a good read for young adolescents, both boys and girls, who just want to be accepted by their peers.
Seventh-grader Kevin, main character of this hilarious verse novel, is bullied by his older brother. In turn, he bullies kids at school. When he gets in trouble, he can no longer be caught bullying, and, as a result, two things occur: his former victims begin bullying him and he finds a secret way to bully others—through black-out poetry. The school librarian shows him that he actually has a talent, Kevin realizes he can be important though his poetry, rather than through his reputation as a bully.
Quaking hits one of the most important topics in adolescent life—bullying—from all sides. Bullies are not only teenage boys (although there is one of those in this novel) and their followers but can be teachers, parents, and adults who bully each other, misusing their power over others. And bullies are bullies for a variety of reasons. This novel can serve as a map, illustrating ways to deal with bullies. The reader cares about eighth grader Matt—possibly more than she does about herself—and her new family, Quakers, who helps her value herself and find her voice.
Much bullying begins in sixth grade. The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade provides important topics for middle grade students to read and discuss—bullying and abuse—told with engaging, addictive humor. Relecutant readers will cheer for Maverick, a young hero readers will love.
None of the Above is a novel about androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS), a form of intersex where a person looks outwardly female but has some of the internal characteristics of a male. But None of the Above is primarily is a novel about Kristin—Kristin whose mother died of cancer; Kristin who has a grieving but supportive father; Kristin who thinks she is in love with Sam; Kristin, a runner and hurdler, and star of the track team; and Kristin who finds out at age 18 that she is intersex.
When the entire school finds out and there are incidents of cyberbullying as well as shaming and an attack in a club, Kristin discovers the importance of a support group of those who can identify with, and understand what, she is facing, as well as friends who still accept and maybe even love her for who she is. The novel will lead to important provocative conversations and, because of the clinical details, sex, and profanity, it is a novel best suited for mature readers.
Another type of bullying is manipulation. Alexandra Miles’ main ambition, actually obsession, of the year is to be crowned Homecoming Queen—a step on her way to Miss America. Alexandra carefully orchestrates every step, every word, every emotion—hers and those of others around her. She is mean, but not the typical mean girl; she is an actual frenemy—friend of enemy, depending on what it gets her. And Alexandra always has a plan. Many chapters are narrated by Alexandra; others are narrated by her victims and accomplices or victims who become accomplices and vice versa. At the end, others stooping to her level but no one is hurt, and the ending could generate classroom or book club discussions on how to beat bullies at their own game without becoming them.
Positive relates a true story, the story of Paige Rawl who was born HIV positive. In sixth grade she shares her secret with her best friend who tells all their friends. Paige is then bullied by her classmates, and her coaches, her counselor, and administrators refuse to intervene, resulting in a suicide attempt. Positive is actually a story about surviving bullying rather than surviving illness and having the courage to face the world and share her journey.
Dean, Carolee. Forget Me Not. Simon Pulse, 2012.
One of the more interesting novels is the multi-genre Forget Me Not in which the author creatively employs a variety of poetic forms (and script writing) to identify the characters and alter the mood of the plot so subtly as to not disrupt the reading and the reader. The storyline, will provoke important conversations among teens about cyberbullying, shaming, and suicide. In response to a compromising photo of her that is texted and causes all her schoolmates to shame her, Ally commits suicide —or so she thinks—as her only way out. A friend tries to save her by showing her that her life has value and that she can make the decision to live.
Adolescents who are grappling with the repercussions of rape often also are forced to contend with the additional torment of shaming by their peers. In http://www.yawednesday.com/blog/the-new-nancy-drew, I shared two novels in which the main characters had been raped and then were shamed by their peers. Patty Blount’s novel Some Boys (Sourcebooks Fire, 2014) features a teen who has been raped and shamed but stands up for herself, even again the rapist’s best friend. In this provocative novel Grace and Ian (her rapist’s best friend) narrate alternating chapters. In All the Rage written Courtney Summers (St. Martin's Griffin, 2015), Romy has been assaulted by the sheriff’s son. No one believes her allegations and, by coming forward, she is bullied by her former friends. As other girls become hurt, Romy has to decide how hard she will fight to be believed.
Lesley can be contacted at: email@example.com