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Empowering Lessons from Picture Books About Bullying for the Classroom

Bullying and feeling left out are issues that can significantly impact the classroom environment. This compelling list of picture books about bullying addresses these challenges head-on. They spark important conversations and help transform your classroom into an inclusive and compassionate space.

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Why Use Children's Books about Bullying in the Classroom?

Bullying is a universal issue that most of us experience as victims or bullies and can take many forms – physical, verbal, or emotional. It is a significant issue, and one way to explore it is through stories about bullying. 

Picture books about bullying or feeling left out in an accessible and relatable way and spark discussions with your students. Illustrated books help raise bullying issues more naturally than formal talks and develop your student’s self-esteem. 

You can use stories to point out the perspective of the victim, the bully and the bystanders and explore illustrated examples of the consequences of our actions.

Stories about bullying can help children explore the concepts of empathy, kindness, and respect. They also provide a safe space for children to explore their feelings and discuss the topic in a supportive environment.

A girl is sitting on the steps with her backpack.

Character Traits in Picture Books about Bullying

Picture books provide a rich resource for analysing character traits. Characters in stories about bullying often exhibit attitudes and actions that promote inclusivity, such as:

  • Demonstrating kindness to others
  • Standing up for their peers
  • Showing empathy towards individuals who are different

 

Likewise, contrasting the actions and attitudes of inclusive characters with those who exhibit bullying behaviours helps children understand the impact of their actions. For example:

  • Ignoring or excluding others
  • Mocking or belittling peers
  • Displaying aggressive behaviours
 

Discussing Sensitive Issues Related to Bullying

Discussing bullying can be challenging. Here are some suggestions to navigate these conversations:

  • Encourage open discussions and validate children’s feelings
  • Teach children about empathy and kindness
  • Reinforce that bullying is unacceptable and its consequences
A person's fingers with faces drawn on them.

Questions to Pair With Picture Books About Bullying

To promote meaningful discussions in the classroom, here are some thought-provoking questions to use with stories about bullying:

  • Can you identify any strategies the characters used to deal with bullying?
  • How did the actions of the bully affect the other characters?
  • What could you do if you saw someone being bullied?
  • Why do you think the bully acted the way they did?
  • How can we help change a bully’s behaviour?
  • Have you ever felt left out? How did it make you feel?
  • Why might someone feel left out?
  • What strategies will help you next time you feel this way?
  • What can you do to join in with other children?
  • How can you help someone who is feeling left out or bullied?
  • How do you feel when you are bullied?
  • What strategies will help when you or someone else is bullied?
  • Have you ever been teased? How did it make you feel?
  • Have you teased someone else? Why?
  • Is teasing and bullying the same? Explain your answer.
  • Is being alone and lonely the same thing? Explain your answer.
  • If you see someone being bullied, what could you do?

Picture Books About Bullying

Read any books you are interested in before sharing them with your students. Not all will be appropriate for your specific needs. There are picture books about feeling left out and books about more serious bullying as the books come from different perspectives.

A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon

Camilla Cream loves lima beans but won’t eat them because her friends hate them. A mysterious illness causes her to become what others think she should be. Only when she embraces her true self does she recover.

A Bad Case of the Stripes serves as a reminder that individuality should be celebrated and that personal growth stems from self-acceptance and the courage to resist societal pressures.

The Banana-Leaf Ball: How Play Can Change the World by Katie Smith Milway

Deo flees his home and ends up alone in the Lukole refugee camp in Tanzania. Tensions run high among the kids until a coach organises a football game with a ball made from banana leaves.

The Banana-Leaf Ball promotes discussions on resilience, the power of play, unity, overcoming adversity, finding common ground, and reducing isolation.

Bob The Artist by Marion Deuchars

Bob tries to change his skinny legs to fit in, but to no avail. After a Matisse-style eureka moment, he paints his beak in art-inspired designs, gaining public admiration for his unique style and teaching him that it’s okay to be different.

Bob The Artist inspires discussions on a growth mindset, self-acceptance, individuality, creativity, inspiration and the power of art.

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum adores her unique name but faces teasing at school due to its uniqueness. However, when her music teacher names her baby Chrysanthemum, it triggers a shift in perspective, leading her classmates to appreciate everyone’s unique identities.

Chrysanthemum encourages your students to embrace their identities and respect others’ uniqueness. It reminds us that open-mindedness and empathy can shift perspectives.

The Dog that Ate the World by Sandra Dieckmann

A greedy dog consumes everything – mountains, trees, plants, and drains the lake dry. The other animals attempt to restore peace, but the dog swallows them. However, the animals are unexpectedly set free when the dog consumes the entire world. 

The Dog That Ate the World allows discussions on community, environment, cooperation, the consequences of excessive greed and the importance of balance in nature.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

Chloe and her friends consistently exclude the new girl, Maya, until a powerful lesson on kindness makes Chloe reconsider her actions.

Each Kindness explores the importance of relationship skills, the value of inclusion, the impact of bullying, the power of kindness and the need for self-reflection.

Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae

Follow Gerald’s journey of courage, self-belief, and resilience as he longs to participate in the annual Jungle Dance, despite the taunting of other animals. 

Giraffes Can’t Dance teaches students the power of perseverance, determination, and a growth mindset. It also inspires discussions on self-awareness, self-esteem, enthusiasm, confidence, and overcoming bullying and self-doubt.

Goal! by Mina Javaherbin

Ajani and his friends in South Africa cherish a new federation-sized soccer ball. Their love for the game brings them together, but they must also confront and overcome neighbourhood bullies who threaten their freedom to play.

Goal! delves into resilience, unity, overcoming adversity, the transforming power of sports, and the story’s setting of a South African township.

Hey, Little Ant by Phillip M. Hoose

A boy is about to squish the ant when it pleads for its life, sharing its perspective and making the boy rethink his decision. The story ends on an open note, leaving it up to the readers to decide what the boy should do.

Hey, Little Ant delves into considering others’ viewpoints before making decisions, empathy, respect for life, moral dilemmas, peer pressure, and decision-making.

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

Meet Brian, a shy boy who struggles to stand out. When he befriends a new student from Korea, his world begins to change, helping him feel less ‘invisible’ and more confident in himself.

Read The Invisible Boy to spark discussions about inclusion and acceptance, the power of kindness, empathy towards others’ feelings, coping with loneliness, making friends, and self-esteem.

Jane, The Fox and Me by Fanny Britt

Hélène faces constant whispers and lies from her classmates. She finds solace in the pages of Jane Eyre. One night, Hélène encounters a fox and shares a moment of connection. With the arrival of a new girl, Géraldine, Hélène gains the courage to face her problems at school. 

Jane, The Fox and Me encourages readers to find strength, self-acceptance and resilience and be true to themselves, even in adversity.

Kiki Kicks by Jane Yolen

At school, Kiki often feels belittled by bullies who misuse their strength. During the karate lesson, she starts to see positive changes in herself.

Kiki Kicks encourages discussions about self-confidence, conflict, self-empowerment, changing perspectives, and dealing with bullies. The story shows how empowerment can harness inner strength.

The Last Chip by Duncan Beedie

A homeless pigeon, Percy, struggles to find food as the more dominant birds manage to beat him to it. Seeing Percy’s plight, a homeless woman offers him her last chip, in an unexpected act of kindness changes.

The Last Chip explores hunger and homelessness, overcoming adversity, the impact of small acts of kindness, and looking out for each other.

Lila and the Crow by Gabrielle Grimard