Using a realistic novel to inspire awareness — and draw out students' true stories
It's often not safe, or doesn't feel safe, for children and young adults to speak right up about bullying they're going through. Schools that have worked with The Revealers have often found that working with storytelling is a powerful "way in."
A simple start is to choose a scene in the book and ask, "How realistic is this? Would something like this ever happen here?" Often the first responses will be, "Well, it's probably realistic, but that stuff doesn't happen here."
These students may be defining bullying in a narrow way, only as physical abuse ... they may be downplaying it as a way of staying safe ... they may have an interest in minimizing this discussion to keep the spotlight away from themselves ... or they may genuinely not be aware of things that are very real to some classmates.
As the discussion opens up new awareness and — as it often does — inspires some students to begin telling their own stories, momentum quickly builds to surprising levels of courage and sharing. To take this further, or to make truth-telling even safer, schools have used blogs and web-based forums, have compiled and printed collections of students' own bullying stories, have performed skits, and have challenged students to use their own creativity in revealing the truth.
In putting together a bullying prevention program or initiative in a school, consider the power of storytelling — both in reading and discussing a work of YA literature, like The Revealers, and in developing ways to make it safe and empowering for students to share their own stories. To learn about positive uses of the Internet for this purpose, visit this site's cyberbullying page, and click on "Using the story to help kids learn the power of online courage—and cruelty."
Here are real-life examples of effective projects that have, in various ways, centered on storytelling:
- Teachers read and recorded chapters for our closed-circuit TV system
- Engaging students and teachers from start to finish of a schoolwide read
- Including all grade-level teachers in the reading project
- Engaging grades 5-6: The Costumed Crusaders
- Clever twist enlivens "Literary Buddies" reading project
- A creative springboard to students' own productions
- Producing "The Revealers: a multimedia play"—in a middle school
- A "community read" with "phenomenal" impact
- Press release for community read (7KB PDF)
More good resources
Words That Heal: Using Children's Literature to Address Bullying, a magnificent curriculum resource from the Anti-Defamation League.
An excellent listing of anti-bullying resources from the "Stop Bullying Now" site of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration
An acclaimed video that's entirely devoted to young people telling their stories and speaking about their experiences with bullying.