Is there anything more heartbreaking than when your child comes home in tears and tells you that they’ve been bullied at school? Or when they see someone else being bullied but aren’t sure what to do?
These are the kinds of things that make you wish for the “easy” parenting days of 2:00 AM feedings and diaper changes!
Picture books can be a great way to gently bring up the topic of bullying — whether for an immediate need or to prepare for the future — and help your child think through ways to deal with bullying for themselves or in their social circles.
Using the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, where Dolly Parton was raised, as the backdrop for this story, the country music legend transforms her classic song, “Coat of Many Colors,” into a delightful children’s picture book. When a young girl needs a warm winter coat, her mother sews her one from rags. Though her classmates tease her, the girl soon realizes that each stitch in the coat was made with love.
Often, the new kid at school gets singled out for bullying. Nico provides an excellent example of how to embrace yourself and turn would-be bullies into friends. Even though the other children think Nico is strange, his confidence and self-acceptance make him an irresistible playmate.
It’s one thing to be short, clumsy, and buck-toothed at home with your loving grandmother. But it’s another to be that way at a new school with a bully looking for a target. Fortunately, Molly Lou Melon has internalized her grandmother’s advice to be proud of herself and her abilities and she isn’t about to be taken down by an elementary school bully.
Lunch stealing is a classic bullying tactic, and it’s still a popular one. In this story, young readers will learn how one victim of lunch thievery dealt with his bully. Complete with a list of do’s and don’ts and resources for parents and caregivers, this book is fantastic to read for the classroom and at home.
This classic Dr. Seuss tale is such a great way to introduce a bully. Sour Kangaroo is determined to destroy Horton’s precious Who friends and rallies other jungle animals around her. Because the characters aren’t human, the book offers a more subtle way to talk about these important issues.
Tackle bullies with your favorite superhero — Wonder Woman! Written specifically for newly independent readers, this leveled reader book introduces kids to three female villains who want to take over the city. Wonder Woman must stand up to these bullies and keep her city safe.
Swimmy is a classic book about the power of working together to stay safe. Swimmy’s friends love their watery world, but it is also scary and they decide they’d rather stay hidden and safe, until Swimmy comes up with an ingenious (and beautifully illustrated) idea to let them experience the world without harm.
This true story about a young bug-loving girl illustrates the power of validation when kids are getting bullied. When Sophia Spencer shares her fascination with insects with her class, she becomes a target for bullying. Thankfully, her mother reaches out to an entomological society for help. With the encouragement of the scientists and her mother, Sophia finds the courage to continue sharing her love of bugs with other people.
Leonard and Marianne are best friends, and they have a great life together. They certainly don’t think it’s strange that Leonard is a lion and Marianne is a duck. But when a pack of bullies start to question if it’s right for them to be friends, they soon learn that sometimes people can be critical… but it’s how you respond to that criticism that counts. This thoughtful story will show kids how important it is to choose kindness over bullying.
When a young boy learns that the other children excluded May from their soccer game, he courageously invites her to play. With a focus on teamwork and kindness, this easy-to-read picture book gives children an excellent example of how inclusion can benefit everyone.
Llama Llama is having a great time at school… that is, until Gilroy Goat starts teasing him in front of their classmates. Llama Llama does as he was taught: he walks away and then tells someone. But afterwards, he finds himself wishing he and Gilroy could be friends again. This is a great book to help parents talk to their little ones about bullying.
Monica’s story is one that will be familiar to some young readers. She and Katie have been friends since kindergarten, but sometimes Katie can be just plain mean. With help from her supportive mother, Monica learns how to face her fears and stand up for herself. Emotional bullying among friends is common, and this book provides a way to open the discussion about it.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2021.