This is an excellent, unique, and thorough book about the culture of bullying by a journalist telling the stories of three real-life incidences of victims and bullies. Unlike most other “parenting” books, this one was a page-turner. I could barely put it down.
Title: Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy
Author: Emily Bazelon
Publication Year: 2013
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Review: First, I should say that this book has several negative reviews on Amazon that have left me wondering if I read the same book. I thought this book was wonderful. My best guess for the criticism is that those readers feel the author is too lenient towards bullying, because they already have strong opinions about individual bullies and personal experience with individual cases of bulling. However, as someone who has no experience with bullying influencing my reading of this book, I feel that the author is very supportive of those that are bullied and just cautions against being overly harsh to individual bullies. She hopes to change the overall culture of meanness in some schools to one of empathy in which kids in general are less accepting of incidences of bullying. She did not support the decision to prosecute bullies in a national news story where a young girl with a history of depression committed suicide. Did she agree with the cold, heartless acts of those individuals toward the victim? No. Did she think that there should be consequences for their hurtful actions? Yes. She just supported school administrators and parents enacting the punishment as opposed to the judicial system sentencing them to up to 10 years in prison. To me, that is being reasonable, not lenient.
This book about bullying is definitely worth reading for any parent or educator. Very few parenting books are “page-turners,” but I had trouble putting this book down even though my children are still too young for most of the information to be relevant to me personally. The first two-thirds of the book follow the lives of all the characters involved in three different real-life incidences of bullying. The author is clearly interested in getting the story right and not jumping to any conclusions. She looks at the situation from all viewpoints to try and better understand both the motivation of the bully and the response of the victim. She makes a very good point, in my opinion, that adults need to evaluate bullying based on the actions of the bully, not on the response of the victim, as many of the most tragic cases involving bullying have mental-illness of the victim as a contributing factor. Grown-ups need to look at the entire picture to combat bullying effectively and overcome the “culture of bullying” both online and in person.
The last part of the book discusses real world practical strategies which have been used successfully to both prevent and handle cases of bullying. This section would be particularly valuable to educators and administrators. The book also includes an FAQ section for children, parents, and educators as well as a number of resources such as fictional stories for kids of all ages promoting empathy in the face of bullying.
Personally, I loved this book. It handles a topic that I had never read about before or even given much thought to, but I think the knowledge and advice in this book is extremely helpful in understanding the world of modern day adolescents and dealing with issues effectively. I should, perhaps, confess that I am a huge fan of Emily Bazelon and have listened to her so often on Slate’s Political Gabfest podcast that I could practically hear her voice reading the book to me. However, even if I had no familiarity with the author’s other work, I’m sure I would have still found this book just as fascinating and valuable. (Personal Rating: 8/10)