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Bullying and Me, by Shapiro and Vote

  • March 26, 2011 8:58 am

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The subtitle of this 30-page book is “Schoolyard Stories,” and indeed this book features the voices of kids relating stories about bullying at school. 

The kids are from a variety of cultural backgrounds, and of varying ages, from elementary school through high school. Also included are two adults who talk about the bullying they experienced when they were children. Each two-page spread includes color photos of one child or adult, along with their story of bullying.

Most of the people featured in this book were targets of bullies, but a few talk about their experiences of being mean to someone else, or not helping someone else who is being bullied. The children who were bullied relate how they overcame the problem with the help of family and teachers. The children who believed they were bullies discuss why they acted the way they did, and what they wish they had done instead.

The book also includes tips and reflections from Dr.  Dorothy Espelage, a professor of educational psychology. As Dr. Dorothy points out, “bullies often pick on kids who are different in some way.” A boy who is not good at sports but likes art or music; a boy who refuses to fight; or  a girl who does not dress in the right clothes, or who talks to the wrong people, may be targets of bullying. Kids who try to break out of gender stereotypes may face bullying as other kids try to force them to conform.

A few of the young people in this book point out that sometimes parents and teachers are not helpful. As one boy said, “Kids are sneaky about bullying.” Teachers and parents may not see it happening, and even if they do, they may not know how to stop it. Therefore, it can be effective for kids to take matters into their own hands, with adult guidance. Two of the young people featured in this book were part of a team that started an anti-bullying committee at school to educate other kids about how to stop bullying. Another boy overcame his fear to confront a bully and tell him, “Y0u’ll have more friends if you’re friendlier to people.” This worked, and the bully became a good friend.

This book can be a great discussion starter about bullying. I like the fact that this book uses kids’ own words to talk about bullying. I have included it on my boys and girls lists.

Tao-Girls Rule! by CJ Golden

  • October 24, 2010 2:12 pm

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The subtitle of this book is: “Finding balance, staying confident, being bold, in a world of challenges.” Tao-Girls Rule! is a cross between a self-help book and a pep talk, with advice based on the ancient Chinese philosophy of Tao.

According to this book, a Tao-Girl is tenacious, accepting, optimistic, grateful, imaginative, radiant, and loving. Chapters are organized around these seven qualities, and explain how girls can use Tao principles such as “tzu jan,” “wu-wei,” and “yin-yang” to deal with life’s challenges.

The author, CJ Golden, has worked with Girls Scouts of the USA to present Tao-Girls workshops, and stories from these girls are included throughout the book. Golden’s web site, www.taogirl.com, also features stories from girls who have completed her workshops.

I liked this book and I would recommend it, but I did not like some of the silhouette images on the cover. A couple of the images show girls with skirts that are far too short (in my opinion). All the girls on the cover are very thin. I do like the image of the girl in lotus posture. I would hope that, in a future edition of the book, the author and publisher would find a way to include silhouettes or drawings of a more realistic representation of teenaged girls on the cover.

That said, don’t judge this book by its cover! The advice inside is invaluable. I wish I’d had this book as I was growing up.

I have included this book on my girls’ book list.

Dear Diary: I’m Pregnant — interviews by Anrenee Englander

  • July 10, 2010 5:42 am
dear diary

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Anrenee Englander decided to interview teens who faced pregnancy to help teens understand their choices in this difficult situation, and the possible results of those choices.

Dear Diary features 10 teenaged girls who talk about how they decided to keep their baby; give the baby up for adoption; or choose an abortion. They also talk about the consequences of those decisions: their feelings, their lives after giving birth or having an abortion, and their advice to other teens facing a similar situation.

Interestingly, no matter what their own personal decision, all the young women in this book expressed the belief that women should have a choice in this situation–that no one else should force them to make one choice over another.

The interviews are presented without any judgment, and with very little editorial commentary. The young women talk about failed birth control; lack of birth control; drugs and drinking; being homeless; religious beliefs; boyfriends; parents; their love for their baby; and more.  Many of the girls said they wanted to participate in the interviews to help other teens. “I just want other people to know that they’re not alone,” said Rose. “Having a baby isn’t going to end your life.”

Some of the teens also remarked that the inteview was the first time they’d ever talked about these issues with anyone else, and that the interview process itself was helpful and therapeutic.

To find pregnant teens to interview, Englander posted flyers at health clinics, high schools, hospitals, and homeless shelters. She conducted 40 interviews, 10 of which ended up in this book. Although the young women came from a variety of backgrounds, all of them had endured traumatic, troubled lives, including poverty, single-parent families, and abuse. Englander points out that although teen pregnancy happens in all parts of society, none of the girls who contacted her were from financially stable, two-parent  families in which there was no abuse.

First published in 1997, the book was updated in 2010 with a new resources section, including emergency hotlines, resources for finding a health clinic, and resources for abortion and adoption.

A nonjudgmental book like this one can help teens sort out their own feelings and needs from the demands and opinions of society and family members. I have included this book on my girls list.