• Margie Marc

Anti-bullying: Start at the Very Beginning

As a KiVa trainer in Spain, who trains teachers about how to implement the KiVa anti-bullying programme in their schools, I'm often asked how the KiVa program and classroom materials can be introduced into the Infant level curriculum. This is because KiVa classroom materials are principally designed for Primary and Secondary classrooms, though some activities can be used with other age ranges and even a few, if adapted, can be used with Infants.

I usually respond by recommending that infant teachers choose the KiVa activities (from the lower-Primary module) that they feel are suitable for their pupils and that can be easily adapted and that they use at least a couple activities each term. This is, of course, possible to do with 5-year-olds, but it is a challenge to do this with younger children.

With very young children, however, we can use stories and picture books to promote themes such as tolerance, diversity, respect for difference, emotional intelligence, a sense of community and kindness and caring for each other. Not only will children be learning language through these stories but they will also be learning about shared values and self-awareness, as well as developing life skills and becoming ready to deal with concepts such as anti-bullying in later years.

Essentially, carefully selected stories can contribute to creating a safe environment in which children perceive that bullying is not to be tolerated. Using the stories with role play and puppetry and talking about the characters and situations can indeed help children to learn what bullying actually looks like and how best they can deal with situations of bullying in a child-friendly way.

So, here are ten stories (and their summaries) that can be used with Infants to deal with bullying at school or at home.

If you've used these stories (or other ones) in your classrooms and would like to share your ideas or help us to build a collection of similar stories to share with other teachers, we'd love to hear from you!

Stick and Stone, written by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Tom Lichteneld. Ages 4-7.

A friendship begins when Stick rescues Stone from mean Pinecone. This simple story about making friends, kindness and compassion highlights the importance of friendship.

Click here to listen to a read aloud.

Strictly No Elephants, written by Lisa Mantchev and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. Ages 4-7.

This story, about a boy and his pet elephant, explores friendship and belonging. When the two friends are barred from a pet club, they walk away feeling dejected. The two encounter a little girl and her pet skunk who has also been turned away from the club. Together they start their own club in which all are welcome!

The Prindle Institute for Ethics has a set of resources with discussion questions for use in the classroom. Click here to listen to a read aloud.

My Nose, Your Nose, written by Melanie Walsh. Ages 1-4.

This storybook introduces the concept of diversity: Agnes has blue eyes. Kit’s eyes are brown. But . . . they both close their eyes when they go to sleep.

The lively illustrations of children and their eyes, hair, skin, noses and legs show children what is unique about themselves and also how much they have in common. To listen to a read aloud of this picture book click here.

Something Else, written by Kathryn Cave and illustrated by Chris Riddell. Ages 4-7.

Something Else tries to belong but no matter how hard he tries, he is always excluded by the other creatures because of the way he looks. Then one day, a stranger turns up at his door claiming to be just like him. Will Something Else reject this newcomer or will he let him into his home and his heart? To view a read aloud of this story click here.

The Recess Queen, written by Alexis O'Neill and illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith. Ages 3-7.

Mary Jean is The Recess Queen: people do what she says, or else! But when Katie-Sue arrives, she does what she wants instead. Mary Jean is on her way to a meltdown when Katie-Sue does something surprising: she asks Mary Jean to skip a rope with her! Soon, the two girls are playing happily, as are the rest of the kids in the playground.

This book not only shows that sometimes bullying can be resolved without adult intervention, but also sheds light on one aspect of bullying: sometimes bullies are bullies because they're not sure how to be friends. Listen to a read aloud here.

Giraffe is Left Out, written by Bob Sornson and illustrated by Maria Dismondy. Age 4+.

When a new student, Leopard, arrives at Jungle School, Giraffe tries to exclude him from joining in. So when Leopard has a birthday party, he doesn't invite Giraffe. Slowly, Giraffe begins to understand how Leopard must have felt when he started school. This story book helps children discover constructive ways to deal with feeling left out and being bullied, and find healthy ways to handle their emotions and questions that spring from the story allow readers to process what they've learned and how it relates to their own lives.

Click here to listen to a read aloud of the story. Note the ideas for exploiting the story on the back pages.

It's OK to Be Different, written by Todd Parr. Ages 1-5.

Children naturally notice differences, so helping them to tackle this before they think that these differences should exclude people is key. With distinctive, bright illustrations, this picture book tackles all the differences that children may observe in the people around them: from skin colour to family makeup to favourite foods and activities. Each page reminds us that these differences are not only okay, but wonderful! The message of acceptance reminds us that differences are what make us special.

Click here to listen to the author, Todd Parr, read the story.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?, written by Carol McCloud and illustrated by David Messing. Ages 4-7.

Featuring girls and boys from around the world, this heart-warming story develops emotional awareness and encourages positive behaviour as children see how rewarding it is to show daily kindness, appreciation, and love.

In the story, bucket filling and dipping are metaphors for understanding the impact of our actions and words on the well-being of others and ourselves.

"Bucket filling is easy. It doesn't cost any money…. Bucket filling makes everyone feel good." says the author,Carol McCloud. Click here to listen to a read aloud.

The Power of One, written by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Mike Curato. Ages 4-8.

When one child shouts at another in the playground, the other children are oblivious ... all except for one little girl. She sees her schoolmate crying, and steps in to offer comfort. It seems like a small gesture, but each act of kindness makes a difference! As her kindness ripples through the school, the children slowly come together, creating a beautiful garden; and the child who shouted even appears with a flower to apologise.

Acclaimed bullying expert Trudy Ludwig, has created a simple but meaningful story about the power of one person taking action and how small acts can grow more than you ever thought possible. Click here to listen to a read aloud. Educational resources to use in conjunction with this story are available here.

Can I Play Too?, written by Mo Willems. Ages 3-7.

In"Can I Play Too?" best friends, Gerald and Piggie are playing catch when a snake comes along and asks to play. But the game is catch and snakes don't have arms so is there a problem?

Not for a snake! In this amusing and creative story children learn about inclusion and it provides an example for children that they can follow themselves in the playground. There is a strong message of fairness and fun.

Click here to listen to read aloud.

Of course, there are many more storybooks we could have included here but we've started with ten. If you have already used these books in the classroom and would like to share your teaching ideas or if you have more storybooks to add to the list, we'd love to hear from you!

Don't forget, sharing is caring!

By Margie Marc

Bio: Margie has been working in the field of education for many years. She loves the positive change that can be provoked through learning, for both students and teachers. Margie currently works as a teacher and teacher trainer, as well as a certified KiVa trainer.