October is National Bullying Prevention Month, so it's a great time to look at books that can help educate kids on the consequences of bullying. Educator and mom Rene Micka, in Charlie's Birthday Wish, has provided a look at the consequences of bullying from a bully's point of view. It helps kids recognize the consequences of their own behavior, and also helps kids realize how bullies can change. The rhyme pattern of the story makes it easy to read, and the book has a satisfying conclusion, with the bully showing appropriate remorse and reconcilitation.
What was the inspiration behind writing the book? Although I no longer teach in a classroom setting, my desire to educate and nurture children is still present. I am driven to make good with the time I have outside the school doors. Writing with a purpose not only helps me stay connected to school, teachers, parents, and students, but also helps share the content to a greater range of people. For the purpose of Charlie's Birthday Wish, I aim to get more people talking with children about friendship and how to improve the way they nurture healthy peer relationships for themselves and others. It is exciting to me that I can teach in this new way, through literature.
Why do you think it's important to write a book from this point of view? A wise teacher I once worked with would always say when speaking of conflict resolution. "there are two sides to every story and the truth is in the middle." To create a solution, you have to understand the problem. In my experience, it is most effective to try and understand both perspectives to get to the root of the conflict. This is the case with the bullying epidemic. The behaviors of a bully are not right or just and must not be allowed to continue. However, I have found that the kids who are doing the bullying do not fully grasp the magnitude of the effects it has on others. They realize it is wrong, just not how wrong. Seeing beyond their own issues is difficult for them. The older they get the more socially sensitive they are consumed with anxiety about fitting in and finding a group. Their bully like behaviors are more fear driven than stemming from cruel intentions. They fear being banished or ostracized for mingling with outsiders. They fear being the next one to be on the "outside." They may not want to behave like that to another child, but will make bad decisions to save themselves from the same fate. Another way of putting it, if the "bully" was at the beach with an "outsider" alone on a desert island, they would likely get along with each other well. Navigating these social waters is challenging for children. If we are to make any impact in the prevention of bullying we have to understand and address both sides of the story.
What tips do you have for kids who recognize that they aren't being a good friend to others? For the children who know they are not making good choices, I would stress to them two important things. One, your words and actions are forever. They will be permanent memories for those you offend. They will remember all their life they way you treated them. Secondly, I would say that a peer that will not be your friend because you are being a good friend, is not a friend AT ALL. If you are child that is more of a leader of the group, go out of your way to show someone you care about them even though they are outside the group. Kids do what others do. Do the right things and your friends will follow. The more this happens the easier it gets to make others feel they belong in your school community. Everyone wants to belong. The more kindness they share, the more others will feel empowered and safe to do the same.
About Rene Micka
Rene Micka is a parent and an educator who has worked with children of all ages for 15 years. She spends a great deal of time volunteering at her children’s Catholic school, where she runs many of the programs. Character education is a focus of all her efforts in the classroom. As a member of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program, Micka’s experiences have led her to have a greater understanding of the issues affecting children in distressed situations. Although she is no longer teaching, she has made it her mission to see to it that children get the better life they deserve. Charlie’s Birthday Wish is her debut children’s book.
Connect with Rene Micka at www.betterdaybooks.net and on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, andShelfari. Charlie’s Birthday Wish is available in print and ebook format and can be purchased fromAmazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major online booksellers.