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Are There Bullies on the Buddy Bench? Review by Laurie Gauger

Mary E. Laders

Bullying. As parents and teachers we hear that word being thrown around constantly. I would bet that every one of us can identify with the pain and stress of being bullied at some point in our childhood. I know that I can, and the emotional distress that it caused was overwhelming. In fact, it played a huge part in our decision to homeschool. Sadly, like so many things in life, bullying is something that we frequently need to address with our children. Author Mary E. Laders has written a book on the subject for early elementary students, titled, Are There Bullies on the Buddy Bench? I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing it this month.

The author was inspired to write this after her grandchild was the victim of bullying. Written from the perspective of eight year old LeaLea, the story takes us through the week of this third grade girl, and how she responds when she finds herself learning first hand, what cliques are all about. She enjoys playing with her friends, but definitely not that mean girl, Beth, who is known as the class bully. The tables are turned though, when one day, one of LeaLea's friends, Ruth, decides to play with Beth. LeaLea then has to decide if she is going to listen to her other friend Lindsay, and stop playing with Ruth, since she has "betrayed" them by playing with Beth, the bully. Students and adults alike will be able to identify with the characters. With the gentle guidance of her mother, LeaLea learns to stand up for herself, and not worry about what other people say.

The situation peaks when LeaLea, Beth, and Ruth see Lindsay sitting all alone on the Buddy Bench. LeaLea makes the brave decision to approach her, but will Beth and Ruth support LeaLea, or shun her? This book is a really good resource for every parent, teacher, and educator. With a whimsical font, short chapters, and relatable characters, children will find the storyline engaging. The story is easy to read for young students, but it would be an even better idea to use this as a read aloud. Used in this way in a classroom or co-op setting, it would be a great way to get a discussion going between children. Teach them to be kind when they are young!

Throughout the story, I was happy to see that LeaLea's mom was walking her through the situation, with encouragement. Her character did not simply rush in and solve the problem for LeaLea, nor did she leave her to figure it out alone. Instead, she was there to guide and teach LeaLea how to stand up for her values. This is so important. I sometimes think that parents and teachers approach these kinds of issues with a, "Well, they have to figure it out themselves" type of attitude. As adults, I believe that we shouldn't solve every problem for our kids, but we should be there to coach them through it. I have done that, and continue to do that with my daughters, and there confidence has improved so much. But, I digress. I also appreciate that in the beginning of the book, and at the end, there is an encouragement for children to seek out an adult to help, if they are being bullied. This is a wonderful book that I definitely recommend.

-Product review by Laurie Gauger, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November, 2018