Anti-Bullying Week takes place in schools across England each November. This year’s Anti-Bullying Week has the theme Change Starts With Us and is happening from Monday 11th November – Friday 15th November 2019. Bullying in all its forms may have a lasting impact on children who experience it. It is therefore important that we work together to change this and any change starts with small steps. We all understand that there is not a quick fix but books, reading and school libraries do have a role in enabling this change.
The key thing that many forget when discussing school libraries is that every single one is different. They have to be in order to work well. Every library serves a specific community and endeavours to meet the needs of the people it serves. Great school libraries act as empathy factories in their communities. The sharing of books with pupils and staff can connect individuals as a school family and encourage us to practise empathy in our daily lives. This can make a big difference in the school and hopefully in the wider community too.
Through stories children are able to briefly put themselves in the shoes of others and in this way learn about what life is like for people very different to themselves. Equally importantly, in stories children may find themselves and learn to cope with situations, worries or feel less alone. Quite often children who experience bullying may be ‘different’ in some way. Children’s books matter because they can encourage tolerance and understanding of those differences. School librarians know which books can do this. Education is not just about the academics it is about educating the whole person to be the best that they can be.
“Children and young people who use the school library have, on average, higher mental wellbeing scores. Those who don’t use the school library are nearly twice as likely to have low mental wellbeing than they are to have high mental wellbeing,” the National Literacy Trust says in a report published last year. Escaping into a good story is great way for children to cope when they are feeling stressed or worried. Literature, escapism and safe spaces are all imperative to good mental health and the school library is vital in ensuring that these are available to all pupils.
Every single school librarian can tell you of a child that has been ‘’rescued’’ by the library. The new pupil anxious about the hurly-burly of the playground, the worried child who needs some time alone and a quiet space to simply ‘’be’’. If for any reason a child feels out of place the school library can provide security and a place where they feel valued. During lunch breaks in a busy library year groups mingle together in a safe place allowing friendships to develop across the age ranges and encouraging informal mentoring by older pupils. Student librarians or library prefects act as guides to younger ones which again fosters kindness and understanding. The school library offers comfort to many and this matters enormously.
This pastoral aspect of school libraries is particularly difficult to measure yet remains a hugely important one, not only during Anti Bullying Week but all year round. If you value school libraries and their role in supporting the well being of school communities please do support the #GreatSchoolLibraries campaign, more information is available on the official website.
If you are looking for children’s book on the theme of bullying several organisations have compiled helpful lists and I have collected links to them below:
Anti Bullying Alliance – a list suitable for all age groups from Early Years to Secondary
Books For Topics – picture books, fiction and non-fiction for Early Years and Primary
Book Trust – books to help older primary school children books who may be experiencing bullying or finding it tricky to make friends
The Book Seekers – a collection of books on the theme of bullying ranging from picture books to fiction for teens and YA.
East Sussex County Council – a comprehensive list for all age groups although some titles are now out of print they may be available to borrow from your school or local library
Little Parachutes – Books which cover the subject of bullying, either written from the point of view of the victim or the perpetrator. Some books suggest practical ways to prevent bullying taking place, while others attempt to explain the possible reasons why people bully others.
Toppsta – Five books chosen ranging from a picture book to a YA novel in verse.
Autism, Bullying and Me by Emily Lovegrove is published in May 2020 and is packed with self-empowering strategies for coping with being autistic in a neurotypical world, and practical tips so you can handle any bullying scenario.
More information is available here.