Tag Archive for Barbara Coloroso

Six Critical Life Messages That Every Child Should Hear, by Barbara Coloroso


UPDATE: I originally posted this in April of 2010, as a tribute to the influence I felt from Barbara Coloroso while writing the book Bystander. In these troubling times, I felt it was time to remember her wise words, which she delivers in 90 seconds.


In previous blog entries, I praised this book by Barbara Coloroso . . .

. . . a title that has informed, enlightened, and guided my own work as a writer, coach, and father.

She’s awesome, that’s all there is to it.

I came across this short video this morning. In less than 90 seconds, Barbara delivers a message that every teacher and parent needs to hear and remember — so that the children in our world hear those same things from us.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

“How Kids Can Handle a Bully”: Um, Thanks, I Think, But Not Exactly . . .

I recently came across this mention in The Washington Post, under the title, “Two books about how kids can handle a bully“:

To learn more about bullies, read “10 Days to a Bully-Proof Child” by Sherryll Kraizer (DaCapo, $15) and give “Bystander” by James Preller (Feiwel & Friends, $17) to your daughter. This riveting young adult novel tells teenagers all they need to know about bullies and how they can handle them best.

I can’t speak for Ms. Kraizer’s book, which aims at “bully-proofing,” but my novel does nothing of the sort. It’s far from a how-to book, and it certainly does not provide easy answers. No disrespect, but I’m skeptical about the promise of “bully-proofing” anybody — maybe it’s just the term I don’t like, it feels too facile, too much like marketing. But to be clear: I recognize that it is important to provide realistic, practical strategies for adults and children to help curb bullying. Credit goes to Ms. Kraizer for contributing to the cause.

To read about this boy in

a 2008 NY Times article, click here.

Bystander — which works best, I think, for readers ages 10-14 — is a work of FICTION. Ms. Kraizer’s book is NONFICTION. We are using entirely different tools, each with its own strengths and limits. I’m not opposed to the pairing of our books in The Washington Post, just the sloppy “one size fits all” presentation, making a promise for my book that it can’t possibly fulfill.

I don’t believe it is in the fiction writer’s realm to “solve” problems. We are better at presenting them, hopefully providing insight, understanding, a little light. I hope that Bystander is a good conversation starter, and a dramatic way for readers to see themselves within the triad of bully/victim/bystander. But as a matter of fact, my impulse to write the novel was partly in reaction against all the books and movies I encountered that promised simple, unrealistic solutions to complex, knotty problems. There’s no magic fix. Rather than providing answers, I hope my book helps readers figure out some of the questions.

My middle son, Gavin, is just about to embark on his first year in middle school. It’s a time of great physical and emotional changes, complicated by the rising hegemony of peers: a difficult transition for any kid to navigate. I won’t pretend that any of this is clear-cut, or that any child’s identity can be neatly labeled, given the multitude of social roles he likely plays within a single day: athlete, student, son, pet-lover, bully, neighbor, victim, friend, brother, etc.  We’re all a burbling mixture of confidence and insecurity, strength and vulnerability, compassion and insensitivity, black and white and a whole lot of gray. It ain’t easy.

Back to the blurb: I was glad the writer found my book “riveting,” and yet also amused, because clearly he/she didn’t read the book. Can one be riveted by the smell of a book? The flap copy? The heft of it in one’s hand? Can a book look riveting?

Not that I’m complaining, but.

For parents and educators, I can strongly recommend two nonfiction books which helped in my research: The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander by Barbara Coloroso; and Perfect Targets: Asperger Syndrome and Bullying, by Rebekah Heinrichs. Despite Heinrichs’s focus on children with Aspergers, I found that the book’s themes and issues were universal.

Six Critical Life Messages in 90 Seconds: Barbara Coloroso

“You’re listened to, you’re cared for, and you’re very important to me — children need to hear that in lots of different ways every day.” Barbara Coloroso.

In previous blog entries, I praised this book by Barbara Coloroso . . .

. . . a title that has informed, enlightened, and guided my own work as a writer, coach, and father.

She’s awesome, that’s all there is to it.

I came across this short video this morning. In less than 90 seconds, Barbara delivers a message that every teacher and parent needs to hear and remember — so that the children in our world hear those same things from us.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Fan Mail Wednesday #84 (Bully Edition)

Usually, I use this recurring feature to respond to letters from young readers. But at the risk of  self-aggrandizement, I thought I’d share this topical letter I received last week:


I just finished reading your newest book last week. As a middle school library media specialist I now feel that everyone in the school should read this book. I think it is an amazing account of what happens here at school everyday. We are all aware of it and trying our best to change it but things don’t happen overnight.

We have been talking about changing the way that we run our summer reading program here at the middle school and have been trying to find an “all school read.” I know that this is the book I would choose. I had a few questions that I thought I might ask. When is this book due out in paperback? Do you have a date or is that something that your publisher decides? If we are trying to fund this program it would be better to know how much to ask for from our donors.

Also, I read your blog about school visits, which I agree with completely. We are trying to get the local police and sheriff’s office involved with this reading program and have assemblies before the end of the school year. I do think that it is great for students to sometimes actually meet the author of the books that they have read and enjoyed. We are planning many events around the book and trying to get the community involved. Would you be interested in all in visiting in the fall of this year once school starts?

We know the issues of bullying are everywhere but we feel that it is important to make it a priority here in our community. We feel that if we have all the students read your book, discuss it and have their parents, friends and family involved then we can try to make some changes.

Please let me know what you think, and THANK YOU for such an amazing book.


Library Media Specialist

I replied:

Dear Ann,

Believe me, there is no pleasure in having written a topical book such as Bystander. I wish these things weren’t so often in the news or in the lives of our children. But if these heartbreaking recent events are what it takes for people to get focused and motivated, then at least something positive may come from it.

In my readings and conversations with educators and experts, I came away convinced that any “solutions” — in quotes — will require the concentrated, enlightened efforts of many people in our schools. Educators, parents, students all pulling on the same oar.

One resource I came back to, again and again, was the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. I don’t have enough experience to fully weigh one bully-prevention program against another. There are many options available; I can’t say what’s best. I’d guess that each community has its own needs and resources. That said; I was very impressed with everything I read about that program, a view that was shared by many of the educators I interviewed.

I’d also like to plug a great book:

Written by Barbara Coloroso, this book was an invaluable resource that helped guide and enlighten my thinking.

In answer to Ann’s questions: The latest word is that Bystander will be released in paperback in Fall, 2011. I’m told that there will be a Teaching Guide available. Yes, I do school visits. Since I live in the Albany, New York, area, any trips that require serious travel (read: an overnight stay) necessitates more than one day’s worth of visits for such a trip to be possible. What works best is when different schools in a district cooperate and provide 2-4 different full-day school visits. Otherwise, it’s just impossible for me to justify a one-day jaunt to some far-flung locale.

Thanks, Ann, for your incredibly kind letter. It sounds to me like you are doing all the right things. Again, it takes a village.

You know, there was a point in an early draft of the book when I compared a bully to a terrorist. I pulled that out, fearing it might be a little over-cooked, but I do still think it’s an apt analogy. I believe that bullying, like other forms of terrorism, can never be fully eradicated. These social dynamics will always go on — but that is no excuse for failing to confront them whenever and wherever they occur. What we need is vigilance, increased awareness, and widespread, dedicated cooperation from a variety of sources to help limit the very real dangers. It’s like any criminal behavior: we must police it. Bullying is not a problem that can be completely “solved” or eliminated. But I do believe we can make real, tangible progress — and one by one, from place to place, positively effect change in the lives of countless young people.

That said, my book is a novel, a story, not a recipe for success. My hope has always been that it would be, in addition to a good reading experience, a strong jumping off point for discussion in the classroom. There’s enough clues in there, from the enlightened responses of some teachers in the book, to the mother’s concern and commitment, to the subtle changes in individual characters, to suggest some of the possible responses that are, I think, necessary if we hope to turn things around.

I was recently interviewed on this topic at boylit.com. Click here if you’re not sick of me already.

My best to you.