Bullying can destroy a classroom’s culture and be so hurtful to children, parents and teachers. My goal every school year is to tackle the idea early on before it becomes a problem. These books about bullying also focus on being kind, empathetic and standing up for others.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, but I think we should focus on bullying and kindness all year long!
Creating a positive classroom culture is such an important part of teaching. If we can create a space where kids are comfortable enough to try their best, make mistakes and be themselves, learning to read and do addition will come so much more easily.
I truly believe that introducing topics early, building social awareness and guiding our students to be considerate of one other is the best way to handle bullying. It gives us all a common language and a goal of who we want to be.
Prevention like this can save so much hurt.
My goal is to reach as many students as possible in a way that is meaningful for each of them. I like to use books to present ideas, both new and familiar, to foster whole class discussions.
For some students, pointing out how their behavior affects the way others see them is helpful.
For others, showing them how they make another person feel is enough to make them think twice. Some students just need to be reminded that it’s okay (and encouraged!) to be unique.
Each of these books tackles bullying and kindness from a different angle because all of our students are different.
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Top 10 Books about Bullying
This book addresses bullying in a really engaging, entertaining way that is still relatable to my students.
Mean Jean is the Recess Queen. She bullies everyone on the playground. They are all scared of her until a new student, Katie Sue, comes to town. This new student doesn’t know to be scared of Jean so when recess comes, she plays.
Jean tries to bully her but Katie Sue resists. Instead she invites Jean to play.
And guess what? No one has EVER done that before.
This book teaches kids two really important lessons: one, when you bully people to get your way, you isolate yourself; and two, a lot of times when someone is being mean, they really just want to be seen and invited.
This book is a perfect 10. 😉
It is simple, has beautiful illustrations, and gets an important message across in very few words.
Stick and Stone are alone and lonely. Then they meet each other. One day, Pinecone makes fun of Stone. He won’t leave Stone alone.
“Vanish,” says Stick.
That one little word is all it takes. The bully goes away.
Now Stick and Stone are together and happy. They are the very best of friends. We do see Pinecone again later and, unsurprisingly, he is very unhappy.
Pinecone was a bully, but he is not a main character of this story. This is such a powerful message. Pinecone was mean, sure. He had a moment where he felt like he had won. He laughed for a minute, but he did not get the joy of friendship.
Being unkind to another person may feel good in the moment. It may make you feel powerful or cool, but being kind gets you something that is much, much better: friendship.
Molly Lou Melon is probably the sweetest little girl I have ever seen. If I could, I would keep her in my pocket! 😂
She is tiny, with big teeth, a bullfrog voice and is just a little bit clumsy.
Her Grandma gives her the most wonderful advice. She tells Molly Lou to embrace the things about her that are special.
When Molly Lou moves to a new town there is a boy there who finds every unique thing about Molly Lou Lemon. He tries to make fun of her but she embraces it. It leaves him feeling very foolish. The rest of her new classmates are so impressed by the way she is wholly, unapologetically herself.
This book teaches the lesson that if you have confidence in the things that make you special, others will appreciate it.
This book is really special because it has no words. It is only illustrations.
That means the readers get to fill in the blanks. We can infer how what the problem is, why someone is doing or not doing something and how someone is feeling.
So much of bullying prevention is encouraging kids to think about each other. This books gives them the chance to think about Vanessa and empathize with her.
You may hear students say “She’s sad” or “She’s alone.” You may hear them say “he’s mean” about the bully. These are opportunities to dive deeper into the roots of those emotions. “Why is she sad?” “What makes him mean?”
We latch onto ideas and concepts better if we are the ones talking. Giving students the chance to explain why the characters feel the way they do allows them to take ownership of the conversation.
Note: I like to project this book so we can see all of the amazing details that have been included as we tell the story together.
This book tackles one of my most commonly used phrases in the classroom: be kind. I say it in efforts to use positive words. Rather than saying, “Don’t …” I can say “Be kind to…” which is more encouraging and actionable.
[In fact, some of my teacher friends prefer to celebrate kindness instead of bully prevention. Neat idea, right?]
Hearing “Be kind” can feel ambiguous, though. What does it really mean to be kind?
This book is about a girl who tries to be kind to her friend who is feeling sad, but it doesn’t work how she planned.
She thinks about all of the things she could say or do. Then she thinks about how kindness can travel and change the world. I love this hopeful idea and so do my students.
This is a book they ask to hear over and over.
Lucy is unique and that really bothers Ralph. He makes fun of every strange thing about her, including the fact that she likes to eat spaghetti in a hot dog bun at lunchtime.
Lucy has the courage to be herself anyway and when Ralph needs help, she’s there for him.
I like to use this story to talk about how sometimes other people can bully because they are jealous that you are being yourself. Other people try to hide unique things about them sometimes but that doesn’t mean you should.
It also doesn’t mean that you should feel bad when they say hurtful things. You definitely shouldn’t change who you are.
Chrysanthemum has a name that is just as special as she is. Her parents tell her so all of the time. On the first day of school, other kids say that it’s too long and laugh that she is named after a flower.
Chrysanthemum’s parents try to make her feel better each day when she gets home but it is not until her music teacher compliments her in front of the other students that Chrysanthemum gains back her confidence.
I read this book on the first day of school every year. I want to impress upon my students from the very first day that unkind words are really hurtful and absolutely not tolerated.
I also want to teach my students that all it takes is one person standing up for another to completely change a situation. If they see or hear something unkind, they can stop it by stepping in.
Do you ever read a picture book that moves you to tears? This book did that for me. It is truly so special, so relatable, and so necessary for my classroom culture.
It is about a boy named Brian who feels invisible. His teacher doesn’t see him because she has other issues to deal with. His classmates don’t see him because he isn’t considered one of the “cool kids.”
He sees them, though. And he wishes he were visible (cue tears). He draws the most amazing pictures, wishing he had a friend.
Justin comes to school and he’s a little bit different. The way the story plays out next is really special. Brian notices Justin so Justin notices Brian. Instead of ignoring him, he welcomes him. (I really want you to read the book so I will leave it at that. 😉)
The lesson to be learned here is simple: everyone has value. You can be the person who excludes or you can be the person who includes.
I always recommend reading any book to yourself first before reading it to a class, but this time I insist that you read it first. This book is powerful and emotional. You want to be prepared for the discussion before you read it aloud.
The lesson of this story is that each kindness makes the world a little better. You may miss some opportunities to do the right thing, but that doesn’t mean you should miss the next chance.
Chloe misses her chance to show kindness to the new girl, Maya, and when Maya suddenly moves, Chloe realizes her mistake. Unfortunately, it’s too late to make it right.
Every time I read this story, my class is silent when it’s over. They want to know what happened to Maya but there is not an answer. That can be a really hard conversation with our students but it’s necessary.
The unknown is what makes this story such a powerful bullying prevention book. I am always so glad I read this one.
This book is a little different from the others in the list because it does not directly address bullying or being kind. It does, however, focus on the fact that we are all people.
This book is all about empathy. Many of the books above talk about how it is okay to be unique. This book talks about the ways we are similar. It is important for our students to understand this because we want them to treat others they way they want to be treated.
If they are able to think about another person’s hopes, fears and feelings, they will be kinder. And that is my ultimate goal:
We will all be kind, empathetic people.
I love using these books about bullying and kindness at the beginning of the school year. I also bring them out when I see a need for a refresher on one of these lessons.
I will hear “Oh I remember that book!” which I love. That means they remember the story. We can read it again with a focus on empathy, kindness and the lesson that needs to be learned.
How do you like to approach bullying in the classroom? Do you have any favorite books? I would love to check them out! Share with us below 👇