It’s every family’s worst nightmare but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution. For kids who have been bullied—or kids who are the aggressor—reading books that address the topic can be an effective teaching tool for learning to stand up for what is right and fostering compassion. From picture books for your little guys to books just for us parents, read on for 10 books we think every parent should own.
photo: Penguin/Random House
1. My Friend Maggie
Two friends—Paula and Maggie—have been besties forever, until one day the mean girl Veronica starts criticizing Maggie. That’s when Paula starts to notice that Maggie is big and clumsy. And instead of sticking up for Maggie, Paula starts to play with Veronica instead. Lucky for Paula, Maggie stays true when Veronica goes sour on Paula, too. This is a sweet and beautifully illustrated story by Hannah E. Harrison, about friendship and changes and growing up—just a little bit.
Ages: 4-8, $17.99. Shop it now.
2. Leave Me Alone
The subtitle tells it all: A Tale of What Happens When You Stand Up to a Bully. The little boy in this story is sad because every day he must face a bully. This little boy also has friends including a frog, a cat, a rabbit and even a cow, and they want to help. But every day the little boy tells them, “There’s nothing you can do for me.” It turns out he’s wrong because the next time the boy encounters the bully, all of his friends join in and shout, “Leave him alone!” Author Kes Cray uses rhyme to tell this important story in a relatable way. Lee Widlish’s illustrations will help your kiddos really understand the lesson of the story, how to face a bully and how to help friends who are bullied. $8.99. Get it here.
3. Batty Betty
Feeling “different” can be scary but what if we could teach kids that differences are their strengths and not weaknesses? Batty Betty author Kathryn Hast aims to do just that. When Abel, the tuba, discovers that Eve, the sad banana, and Betty, a giant, are being bullied by Beavers, he sets out to defeat them. But it turns out, it’s not about winning, but about being okay with who you are. Illustrated by L.M. Phang. $13.99. Buy it here.
4. Stop Picking On Me
Written by Pat Thomas, an experienced psychotherapist and counselor, this is a straightforward book aimed at helping addressing bullying and feelings because “bullies only pick on people they know they can hurt.” This book includes a list of parental tips to help kids talk about their feelings and how to address the fears and concerns bullying can bring up, as well as ways to resolve it. Illustrated by Lesley Harker (This book is part of a series of books aimed at addressing common childhood fears and concerns. Learn more. $7.99. Get your copy here.
5. The Infamous Ratsos
A 2017 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book, author Kara LaReau introduced readers last year to the Ratsos. Louie and Ralphie’s dad, Big Lou, teaches them there are two types of people: tough or soft. And his boys are tough, of course. But the Ratso brothers, even when they try to be tough, end up doing good deeds and kind acts instead. Find out how their dad deals with it. Illustrated by Matt Myer. $14.99. Shop here.
6. Felix Stands Tall
This story, part of Rosemary Well’s vast collection of children’s books, features Felix, a sweet-natured guinea pig who is best friends with Fiona, an extroverted gal who convinces Felix to sing and dance with ther in the Guinea Pig Jubilee talent show. When someone starts to taunt Felix for dancing, he wants to curl up in a ball. But, with help from his friend Fiona, he finds the secret to standing up for himself. $4.25. Get your copy today.
For Middle Grade
7. The Adventures of Doc Holliday Hennings
TK Bethea’s novel about an adopted puppy was created by a writer (and father) who wanted a book to address issues he’d experience himself: blended families, half-siblings, step-parents, mixed cultural upbringings, and bullying. Doc Holliday is our puppy protagonist who settles nicely into his newly adopted home, for a little while. When he overhears something that makes him think his adopted family doesn’t really love him, Doc runs away to try and find his birth family. He finds a world of trouble on the streets, but the outcome is as heartwarming as the puppy characters themselves. $39. Buy it here.
This middle-grade memoir about overcoming bullying and thriving with disabilities shows us all that “ugly” is not always a bad thing. No one knows better than the book’s author, Robert Hoge, who was born with a tumor the size of a tennis ball in the middle of his face and short, twisted legs. Surgeons removed his tumor and made him a nose from one of his toes. He was called all kinds of names and dealt with bullying most of his life. Read his remarkable story together with your kids: it will change you life, too! $8.99. Get your copy now.
9. Bullying No More: Understanding and Preventing Bullying
Dr. Kimberly L. Mason offers parents a whole arsenal of tips for how to handle this huge issue, including how to recognize signs of bullying, the different types of bullying, the three main roles kids play in bullying (the bully, the bullied, the bystander), myths and facts about bullying, and intervention and prevention strategies. She also will help you figure out your own parenting style and kid’s response style, to help find the most effective solution for you. $14.99. Get it here.
10. Bullying Solutions: Learn to Overcome from Real Case Studies
Co-authored by Dr. Michael Carpenter and Robin D’Antona, Ed. D., this book compiles 40 real-life examples of various types of bullying and how each one was confronted. It’s real life, so that means not all the outcomes were great, but it helps us as parents understand how our actions and those of other parents, school administrators, children and others involved, can affect change. You’ll get an overview of bullying, including definitions, aggressors and targets, a “toolbox” of facts and myths, and effective tips for intervention. $14.99. Buy it now.
What books have you read on this topic? Tell us your suggestions in the comment below.