Nevertheless, it happens every day, in every school across the globe…
Every seven minutes, a child is bullied. Adult intervention happens 4% percent of the time. Peer intervention happens 11% of the time. A stunning 85% of the time, no intervention occurs at all. Statistics show that bullying, intolerance, and teasing are the major causes of teen suicide, school violence, and school shootings. Source: Bureau of Justice.
The statistics on school bullying are staggering.*
- One out of four kids is the victim of a bully.
- One out of five kids admits to being a bully, or doing some "bullying."
- 8% of students miss one day of class per month for fear of bullies.
- 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month.
Can reading books help prevent these tragedies?
Teacher, Jeff Smith, (Sable Point Elementary School, Florida) and I took a “novel” approach to this problem. After previewing Kandide and the Secret of the Mists, he decided that it would make great personal growth and pro-social acceptance reading project for his class.
He felt that if the kids got involved in this type of book, they would not only increase their reading, comprehension, and creative skills, but learn very important life-lessons—it’s okay to be different, that is what makes you special. And it’s not okay to bully, ostracize, or make fun of others.
“Not only is Kandide jam-packed with fantasy, action, and adventure—all the things kids love to read,” Smith explains, “but the central theme of the book strikes a chord at one of the biggest issues kids face, being bullied and rejected, often because they are different.”
The following conversation is between two of MR. Smith’s students and myself.
Hi, what is your name? I asked one of the students who seemed to be a bit shy.
“Oh, that’s Jon, he never talks much,” one of the other students replied.
“Well, Jon,” I asked, “would you break your rule just once and tell me what you think of my book?”
“I think that… that… it’s really good.” Jon stuttered. I realized that is why he didn’t like to talk.
“Why do you like it?” I asked.
“Because… it… it says… it says it’s okay to be different.”
“So, it’s okay if… if I don’t like to… to talk much. I’m just… just different, and now I know it’s… it’s okay.”
“Not only is it okay, Jon, but with your artistic talent, I’d say you are more than okay—you are amazing. Will you be the official Storyboard Artist for Kandide?”
Can reading help change kids thinking? Give them self-esteem? Make them more tolerant? Teach them respect for others? It changed Jon’s life—and his classmates. With their own stories to write as a follow-up to my visit, several of the kids in Jon’s class asked him to help create the illustrations for their stories. Suddenly, Jon’s “differences” didn’t matter. A year later, when I returned to Sable Point, one of Jon’s classmates told me, “Not only does Jon talk now, he talks all the time.”
According to Dr. Russell Skiba of the Indiana Education Policy Center, “Left untreated, the affects of bullying can evolve into depression, physical illness, and even suicide. Additionally, students who engage in aggressive and bullying behaviors during their school years may take part in criminal and aggressive behavior after adolescence.” Skiba goes on to say, “In the year following a comprehensive school intervention program, researchers recorded a 50% decrease in the number of bullying incidents, while also reducing the intensity of these problems.”
Other studies such as that by the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence in Boulder, Colorado concur: “While approaches that simply crack down on individual bullies are seldom effective, when there is a school-wide commitment to end bullying, it can be reduced by up to 50%.”
“The hour I spent talking with students focuses on Kandide’s story, how painful it is when you are rejected or made to feel unimportant, and how everyone is special in his or her own way. I received many standing ovations in the years when I was a magician and motivational speaker, but none will ever mean as much to me as those that come from school kids. The message in Kandide really resonates—with both boys and girls. They get it.”
Harry Potter proved that young people will read if they are excited enough about the story. Kandide and the Secret of the Mists is proving that great books not only inspire reading, but can help change the thinking of kids and the way they view themselves and the world.
Can Kandide and books like it help prevent school violence? It’s a “novel approach,” and it’s working. When teachers and schools get involved the right way, results happen.
Barack Obama, concurs: "As a parent of two daughters, I know how important it is to keep our schools safe. Teachers can be more effective if there is a school-wide system of behavioral expectations. Students learn more if they feel safe."
Kandide, which is endorsed by the national anti-bully organization S.A.V.E. (Students against Violence Everywhere) is set in a world that rings true for almost every tween and teen—one that is obsessed with beauty and physical perfection, with a healthy dose of intolerance and distaste for those who do not fit this mold. I’ve merely changed the scenery. The story takes place, not in the ruthless modern-day hallways of a middle or high school, but in the equally harsh, mysterious world of the Kingdom of the Fée, where beauty and arrogance are revered, and anyone who looks or acts different is cast off.
I’m happy to share the details of my many other success stories, and how you can help make your kids and their reading programs even more beneficial.
To schedule an appearance and learn more about how I’m not only motivating kids to read, but helping to stimulate pro-social behavior, one classroom at a time, contact Carol Ivy at firstname.lastname@example.org