Recently, Jacksonville Reads encouraged older school-age children to consider their responses to bullying as they visited with young adult author Heather Brewer and read her book Eighth Grade Bites.
Much younger children also need strategies for responding to classmates who disrupt their day. Those familiar with the beloved storybook character, Llama Lama, will be happy to discover a new picture book offering some solutions.
There are live wires like Bully Goat in almost every preschool or kindergarten class. In Anita Dewdney’s Llama, Llama and the Bully Goat, Bully Goat throws toys at the other children—and then looks surprised when they’re upset. He tries to join others in their play by blocking their way or kicking sand, and–the book implies–his language might make even a hardened preschool teacher blush.
In this wise and colorfully illustrated book, Teacher (actually a zebra) doesn’t tell the other children (sheep, gnus, and giraffes) to avoid Bully Goat. She doesn’t even label him as “bad.”
Instead she sees him as young and inexperienced. She calmly takes him aside, and while she knits, Bully Goat watches the other children play. By the end of the day, he has begun to be part of the group himself.
It takes time for the very young to learn social skills. In the pages of Llama, Llama and the Bully Goat, some children, like Llama Llama, are just beginning to learn to speak up for their rights; others, like Bully Goat, are just beginning to learn about self-control and ways to join others in play.
All of them are learning. All of them make mistakes, but as Llama, Llama and the Bully Goat shows, they are all potential friends.