5 books to help talk about bullying
As the new school year is now well underway for many children, it seems to be a fitting moment to talk about the serious subject of bullying. The playground is unfortunately not always a happy place. From mockeries that may seem harmless to the perpetrators, to instigation of violence, and other forms of bullying that can occur at school, are represented in this selection of books. These books are a good tool to talk about these issues with young audiences and are especially useful for early prevention amongst younger children. We hope that these books will help your child understand what is happening to them, and help them feel less alone.
Les cheveux de Léontine
This beautifully illustrated picture book is a great way to talk about our differences and how they are our strengths, even if some people mock us for them. Unfortunately, from a very young age, children can single a child out amongst their peers, just because they have a physical difference or behave differently compared to the rest of the group. This is what Rémi Courgeon portrays through two characters: Léonie who keeps her hair long in memory of her father, and Olaf who likes to sing about anything and everything. These two characters are sometimes mocked by others, but they never stop being themselves and find comfort and friendship in each other.
Comme un million de papillons noirs
Laura Nsafou & Barbara Brun
This beautiful book by Laura Nsafou and Barbara Brun is a great way to discuss racism with young kids. Adé, the main character, is one day mocked by her peers, because of how her black hair behaves under the rain. This moment will crush the little girl who will straightaway find her hair ugly and want to change it. The reactions of Adé's mother and her family to this news, emphasises the importance of self-acceptance and helps her to love her origins, and see the beauty in who she is.
Harceler n'est pas jouer
Bullying at school can unfortunately start from a very young age. It can be hard for children to realize that mockeries can be very harmful and can be bullying. This is what this book showcases. Leonie will suddenly be the victim of Estelle's jokes that make most of the class laugh, and she will fall into the vicious circle of bullying: being afraid to talk due to fear of retaliation. Delphine Pessin emphasizes the side of the victim: how Leonie feels more and more sad, up to the point of isolating herself from her friends and feeling sick at the idea of going to school; but she also points out that at this age bullies don't necessarily realize the gravity of their behaviour. The main message is in the title "bullying is not a game". This is a great book to talk about bullying for kids from 6 to 9 years old.
Gros sur le coeur
Bullying is not always a completely random act. Unfortunately, a kid that doesn't conform to societal "standards" can be an easier a target for bullying. This can be even more of an issue during a child’s teenage years, when perceptions of beauty and bodies change and gain in importance. In this book, Carène Ponte portrays a 17-year-old starting at a new high school, who is seen as fat and unfashionable by her new peers. The attacks by a popular clique, which mainly take the form of a hurtful nicknames, will make it hard for the teenager to integrate herself into her new environment and will slowly destroy her self-image, and cause her to develop the symptoms of an eating disorder. This book also explores the detrimental effects of seeking vengeance, and the importance of an accepting group of friends. The way a couple of people view you is neither a truth nor a statement on how the rest of the world views you. Warning: this book also discusses grooming perpetrated by a teacher.
L'enfer au collège
This short novel is perhaps more challenging, with its depiction of bullying to the point of physical violence and is therefore more suitable for older children. Where this book differs from the others is that here Arthur Ténor writes both sides of the story, with one chapter from the victim's point of view in the present, and the next from the bully's perspective in the near future. The reader can empathize with Gaspard, a 12-year-old boy who starts secondary school, and is instantly targeted by Anthony. Gaspard will employ different strategies to defend himself, such as ignoring Anthony, talking back to him, and attacking and seeking revenge against him. On Anthony’s side, he is not someone that seeks to be excused for his actions. A true explanation as to why he targets Gaspard is never really given, besides perhaps his views on masculinity, and how a man should look and behave. In this sense, this novel still emphasizes that teenagers are not yet adults, and that even if they understand a lot, they don't always totally grasp the harm and consequences their actions may have on others.