Monday, August 22, 2011

A New Book to Help Kids Who Are Bullied

I just learned about a newly-released anthology, "Dear Bully," by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones, a compilation of real stories from seventy authors who were bullied, or did some bullying themselves. It sounds like a must-read for kids, parents, and teachers.  I'm looking forward to reading it soon!

Here's a review of "Dear Bully" that appeared in School Library Journal:

This is a powerful addition to the growing collection of materials that deal with this pervasive issue. Young adult and children’s authors have stepped up and shared their own experiences. The stories, poems, letters, and comics are as different as they are alike; feelings of powerlessness, lack of support, and the sheer invisibility that they felt are themes that run throughout the selections, and yet each one is unique and moving. Many contributors talk about how writing became an escape from their pain and provided fuel for their creativity. Loners and misfits, popular kids, artsy types, you name it, they are here in these pages. Some are still raw from their experiences, many tell how they have moved on, and most writers assure readers that life does get better, that there is always something to look forward to. All of these stories feel authentic and honest, and readers will find a story or a person to identify with, to look to for comfort or guidance. As educators, parents, physicians, politicians, and children themselves struggle to address the issue of bullying in schools, in cyberspace, on playgrounds, or wherever, the power of real people telling real happenings about real issues is a valuable tool to wield. With some profanity and frank mentions of drinking, drugs, etc., this anthology is best for high school collections, though many of the individual stories would be excellent for middle schoolers.— by Jody Kopple

By the way, if you'd like to be inspired by a real-life "upstander" who took a firm stand against bullying, click here to read "She Said 'No' to Cyberbullying." There's a lesson in it for all of us!

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Back from South Africa

And what a trip it was! We visited schools, an orphanage, a game reserve, and many, many sites in this fascinating country, including the profoundly moving Apartheid Museum. So many of the children we met were incredibly friendly and warm in spite of poverty, very difficult living conditions, and in many cases, the loss of a parent to AIDS.

I got the chance to speak with teachers in a number of schools, and it was inspiring to see how dedicated they were in the face of extremely challenging teaching conditions, including an almost total lack of supplies -- paper and pencils were about it for most, and books were sparse;  overcrowded classrooms with as many as 60 students and no support staff; poverty and a dearth of food for a large majority of their kids.  For many students the walk to school took more than an hour each way and was often done on empty stomachs. They would be fed when they got to school, then at the end of the day. No lunch or snack was available, and for many of the kids, these were their only meals. It's hard to imagine. Yet, there was an energy of hope and warmth, even at the orphanage we visited. The photos below, all taken in South African schools or at "Mama Mary's" orphanage, clearly reflect this.

A Pre-K classroom. The smile on the teacher's face was typical of so many people we met there.

1000 plus children, perfectly still for morning prayers. 
Preening for the camera
Precious little girls I met at the orphanage.

The shortage of books in South African schools prevents many children from being fluent in reading until they reach 7th grade. If you'd like to help, please go to Books for Africa which has shipped more than 24 million books to 45 African countries since 1988. These books are on once-empty library shelves, in classrooms in rural schools, and in the hands of children who have never before held a book. Think of all the books that sit in darkened storage closets in schools across the U.S. With your help these books could open a world of literacy to children in rural South Africa.

Click here to learn more about the Peace Train, the organization that sponsored this trip.

What Do You Think? To leave a comment, e-mail, or click on the word “comments” and write your comment in the box, then click on “Select profile . . .” If the top group of options doesn’t apply to you, select “Name/URL” to comment with your name (you can leave the URL part blank), or select “Anonymous.”