5 Star Fridays · non fiction · Reader's Advisory

Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy by Emily Bazelon

The Five Star Friday recommendation this week is Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy by Emily Bazelon.   The book is a hefty yet very interesting examination of bullying and its new and increasingly complex forms.

Summary:                     Bazelon defines what bullying is and, just as important, what it is not. She sticksexplores when intervention is essential and when kids should be given the freedom to fend for themselves. She also dispels persistent myths: that girls bully more than boys, that online and in-person bullying are entirely distinct, that bullying is a common cause of suicide, and that harsh criminal penalties are an effective deterrent. Bazelon believes that to deal with the problem, we must first understand it. Cutting through the noise, misinformation, and sensationalism, she takes us into schools that have succeeded in reducing bullying and examines their successful strategies.

Bazelon’s even handed approach is neither sentimental nor predictable.  By taking a microscopic look at the stories of three very different individuals and their experiences, the author describes the changing landscape children and teens face.   She also uses multiple examples of situations to demonstrate the many layers of this complex issue.  Acknowledging there is no one-size-fits all approach to prevention or intervention, Bazelon explores the effects of misusing prosecution as well as the positive results of programs such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) that was not initially intended to address bullying in schools, but proved to reduce incidents of violence or verbal aggression.

Included in Sticks and Stones: is a section for Frequently Asked Questions as well as a chapter that lists resources for students, parents, and educators.

In his 2013 New York Times review, John Schwartz wrote about Bezelon:  “As a lawyer, a parent and a journalist, she is highly attuned to her topic. In a series of articles beginning in 2010 for Slate, where she is a senior editor, she explored the Phoebe Prince case, a tangled story of bullying, cyberbullying and suicide in South Hadley, Mass. Because of a crusading district attorney and the overheated news media narrative that Phoebe Prince had killed herself after months of psychological torture by mean girls, a complex situation got simplified it into a stark tale of “bullycide” resulting in criminal charges for six classmates.”

Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy provides clarity and positive steps parents and other adults can take to address the problem and create a culture that promotes problem solving rather than denial or retribution for behavior.

For more information, download these free CDC resources:

Understanding Bullying

The Relationship Between Bullying and Suicide:  What We Know and What it Means for our Schools

Or you can check out these books for young adults:

The Survival Guide to Bullying: Written by a Teen,  by Aija Mayrock; Written by a teenager who was bullied throughout middle school and high school, this kid-friendly book offers a fresh and relatable perspective on bullying. Along the way, the author offers guidance as well as different strategies that helped her get through even the toughest of days. The Survival Guide to Bullying covers everything from cyber bullying to how to deal with fear and how to create the life you dream of having.

I’m Just Me, by M.G. Higgins; Nasreen and Mia are two very different girls. But they stand out at Arondale High. And kids make assumptions about the only Muslim and the new black girl–the only African American–in school. The school administrators are ignorant. And worse. The bullying escalates. Both at school and online. The girls come up with a plan to fight back. To regain some dignity. To turn the tables on the bullies.

Gutless, by Carl Deuker; With both good speed and good hands, wide receiver Brock Ripley should be a natural for the varsity team, but he shies from physical contact. When his issues get him cut from varsity, he also loses his friendship with star quarterback Hunter Gates. Now a target for bullying, Brock struggles to overcome his fears and discover that, in his own way, he is brave enough to do what is right.

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