By MADELENE BARNARD
Special to the Herald
Fatso! Weirdo! Ugly! Stupid! Brainaic! Homo!
Labels such as these and others can be part of verbal bullying as well as physical, relational and cyber bullying. It can start as early as elementary school, and though it often peaks during middle school, bullying can carry on throughout high school and beyond.
It is not a rite of passage. Even in this über-competitive world, it is a destructive power imbalance with frequently catastrophic results. According to the National Education Association, each day as many as 160,000 children skip school because of fear of attack or intimidation by bullies. Worst of all, some have resorted to suicide as a result of bullying and social rejection. Bullying can morph into harsh attacks based on race, religion and sexual orientation.
In recognition of National Bullying Prevention Month, arm yourself with information from the Manatee County Public Library to help stop this destructive cycle.
Try reaching the children and adults in your life with this fiction sampler:
“Hooway for Wodney Wat,” a picture book by Helen Lester, is a fabulous tale of about the acceptance of individuality. Because Rodney the rat pronounces the letter r as w, his classmates make fun of him. His speech impediment saves the day when a new school bully terrorizes the class.
For young adults, Judy Blume’s “Blubber” is a tender story exposing the whimsy of bullies. It doesn’t matter how one looks or dresses, in the end, anyone can be the outcast. Also recommended for young teens is “Buddha Boy” by Kathe Koja. The author highlights the power of the bystander and also scores a victory against prejudice.
For adult readers, “Nineteen Minutes” is Jodi Picoult’s powerful novel that explores the social outcasts’ world of loneliness and desperation, as well as the popular crowd’s constant struggle to stay “on top.” Does a lifetime of abuse justify 19 minutes of bloody revenge? It is a masterfully written fictional account drawn from a number of horrifying real-life events.
You can also find out about preventive and intervention techniques. There are numerous self-help guides in our education, parenting, video and young adult collections. The librarians can assist you in your search.
In the words of Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Noble Peace Prize recipient: “Take Sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
For more information, call your local library. Central Library: 748-5555; Braden River: 727-6079; Island: 778-6341; Palmetto: 722-3333; Rocky Bluff: 723-4821; South Manatee: 755-3892. (All numbers are area code 941.)
Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday. Access the library online at www.mymanatee.org/library.html.