3 books that fight bullying and build empathy

revelersWe know the long term effects bullying can have on kids are not good.  Kids who experience bullying  can have increased anxiety, sleep problems, changes in eating patterns, and symptoms of depression. Many adults and students have become more aware of this topic– however changing behaviors takes more than just a conversation or two. Building empathy, taking someone else’s perspective, and becoming a community of upstanders is process that requires focused attention, effort, conversation, and modeling.

One way teachers can begin to create deliberate communities that support each other is through literature. Reading about bullying can provide students with a way to talk about the topic without having to talk about themselves. Here are 3 great books for reading aloud in an upper elementary or middle school classroom. These can be stand alone read alouds, or done as a unit on standing up for each other. Or, they can be used in response to a class that has had a difficult time with bullying in the past.

1. The Revealers by Doug WIlhelm. 

In this book Russel is faced with a classic bully, Richie. He seeks out Elliot, who is always picked on, for advice. They are joined by Catalina, a recent immigrant who is also suffering from bullying. Together, they devise a way to help the students of their middle school to have a voice and share their stories. Issues of bystanding, upstanding, peer pressure and understanding why people bully are all in this suspenseful text.

wonder2. Wonder by RJ Palacio.

By now I am sure you have heard of this book. It is about Auggie, a boy with a severe facial deformity, and the challenges he facing going to a new middle school. What is so fantastic about this book (and it’s follow up, Auggie and Me), is that readers jump into the perspectives of various characters. This helps them build empathy and understanding of people with varying perspectives. Reading this book aloud provides the opportunity for many rich discussions about characters, families, and how everyone is facing some sort of challenge.

Bullying on Bus 10 (1)3. Bullying on Bus 10 by Katy Farber

Yes, this one is by me. And it is not a book, but a short story and discussion guide. The story is a raw look at bullying on a middle school bus. School buses remain a problem area for bullying. This story showcases a student who finally stands up to bullies and feels better for it. It also shows how you never know one’s story unless you are experiencing it.  The story has discussion questions for parents and teachers at the end and many resources about bullying linked as well. This is only available on Kindle.

What do you think? Have you read any of these books, or have a book to add? Please let me know!