Using a realistic novel to address bullying in schools

Darkland.

That's what the seventh and eighth graders in The Revealers call their school ... and that's how a real middle school can feel, all too often, to the kids in it. "It's not so much the school — the school is okay, I guess," writes one character in The Revealers. "It's the way kids treat you in it."

Bullying in schools is most severe and most damaging, studies are showing, at the middle school level. This is the time to intervene. And because this novel is a realistic story that is not judgmental and has many points of entry, working with The Revealers can have a powerful impact on raising awareness and changing the culture of a middle school. What's key is to bring your own creativity to your project with the book.

Here are four powerful ideas, drawn from many schools' experiences, for making a book reading and discussion the focal point of a school's bullying prevention strategy:

  • Involve all teachers, even the whole school staff, in the reading and discussion project.
  • Seek support and participation from prominent community citizens and organization leaders (for example: ask to record them reading a chapter; invite them to an evening forum; ask them to share their own bullying stories with students).
  • Challenge students to do creative projects — make dramatic videos, do posters, write their own new endings to the book — based on The Revealers and/or on other realistic bullying experiences.
  • Use the Internet to stimulate sharing and discussion — create a blog or other online discussion site. (See "How a school's "Webboard" drew hundreds of student entries")

To help, here's a rich selection of ideas and inspiration, along with useable materials:

More good resources

  • www.clemson.edu/olweus/:
    U.S. site for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, a comprehensive, school-wide program developed in Norway for use in elementary, middle or junior high schools.
  • www.nobully.org.nz/:
    A school-based "No Bully" program from New Zealand.
  • www.reportbullying.com:
    Motivational speaker Jim Jordan has created presentations "that reach to the root of the bullying in schools."