Unfortunately, one of the things kids have to deal with these days is bullying. What was once something you typically saw more frequently with older children is now something that you see beginning way earlier these days. In my career, I have noticed that cliques begin forming in preschool. On many school visits, I have seen groups of children cluster together and witnessed the leaving other children out for one reason or another.
This weeks book recommendation is Stick and Stone written by Beth Ferry and illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld. In this book, kids learn about kindness and the importance of being a good friend. The main characters of the book are Stick and Stone...both felt lonely until they found each other after Stick steps in to defend Stone after Pinecone is making fun of him. They quickly become best friends and end up protecting each other when they are both most in need of a good friend.
Stick and Stone is a simple book making it easy for even the youngest of children to understand. I've used it with my group of kids at The Meeting House and they loved it and were really able to engage in meaningful conversations about friendship and even begin a simple conversation about bullying. I think it's important to help young children not only learn about what it means to be a good friend but also be able to recognize when someone isn't being a good friend to you or your friends.
Below, you will find some questions you can ask your children and activities that you can do with them while reading Stick and Stone.
-ask your children what makes them a good friend. Discuss qualities that make them a good friend and what they love about different friends of theirs. If you are doing this in a group/classroom setting, keep a running list of these qualities for children to reference throughout the year.
-in addition to talking about what makes someone a good friend, it's equally important for children to recognize the opposite. Since bullying is beginning at a younger age, it's important for kids to be able to know if they or other friends in their class are being bullies. Talk about what kinds of things make someone a bully (and this conversation and the language you will use will be different for different aged kids). Talk about what they should do if they feel like they are someone else is being bullied. Most importantly, they should not keep quiet and they should talk to grownups.
-this book offers a lot of opportunities for role playing. If you check out this link, the author and illustrator have put together an activity pack that includes some finger puppets. You can go through a bunch of scenarios with the kids to help them problem solve difficult moments they may encounter in school, at the playground, etc..
-this summer, I learned about a beautiful initiative called The Kindness Rocks Project. They have two simple goals:
~Inspire others through randomly placed rocks along the way
~Recruit every person who stumbles upon it to join in the pursuit of inspiring others through random acts of kindness.
Painting rocks and writing messages about friendship and kindness that were brought up in Stick and Stone is a craft to do after reading the book. Kids can paint or draw using permanent or paint markers and then hide them in their neighborhood.
While it's hard to imagine that we have to worry about the idea of kids being bullied at such a young age, I think if we begin to teach children at a very young age about being a good friend and how NOT to be a bully, we may help avoid kids becoming bullies as they get older. One of the things we can teach our children from this book that it might not be easy, sticking up for others like Stick did for Stone when Pinecone was being mean to him could lead to lifelong friendships!
If you have any other books that may address this subject in a child-friendly manner, I would love to hear about them! I am only a click away and LOVE hearing from all of you!