Sometimes it just takes One.

20 Oct

I want to share a story with you. When I was in 6th grade, I was a geeky, gangly kid who read a lot, had unruly red hair, and did well in school.  I remember one particular day walking to school, and as I crossed the playground a girl yelled at me from the other side. That girl’s name was Heather. I remember very specifically what Heather said to me: “Hey Mary, why are you so ugly?”

I was a bullied kid.  Not physically, and not so much that I didn’t want to go to school.  But enough so that by the time I was in 8th grade, I had pretty low self-esteem and was pretty shy.  Being smart was not cool, and while I had friends, I still didn’t feel very good about myself.  My parents worried about me, and, fortunately for me, took steps to help me, which included offering me the chance to go to a private school.  I was lucky.

I’ve come a long way since then.  I worry a lot less about what others (well, others that I don’t know) think of me.  I think I’ve figured out who I am and I really like the person I’ve become.   But I still think about what that girl said to me, and I still have some self-esteem issues.

Given some of the terrible, tragic events that have resulted from school

One by Kathryn Otoshi

bullying lately, I have been especially motivated to share a particular book with my preschoolers.  I wasn’t sure they’d be able to sit through it, as it’s kind of abstract, but the kids I’ve read it to have been transfixed.  It’s called One, and it’s by Kathryn Otoshi.

The premise of One is this: Blue is happy to be Blue – a quiet color, who likes looking at the sky, and occasionally, when he’s feeling bold, splashing in puddles.  The other colors, Yellow, Purple, Green and Orange, like Blue also, and tell him so. Sometimes, Blue wishes he had more of their traits, but mostly, he’s happy being Blue.

Except when he’s around Red. Red is “a hothead”. Red shouts things at Blue, like “Red is HOT. Blue is NOT.” This, obviously, makes Blue feel sad.  The other colors reassure him, but when Red is around, they do not stand up for him. They do not tell Red NO.

Then 1 arrives. 1 is bolder, and brave, and when Red tries to tell 1 what to do, 1 says NO. He refuses to let Red bully him.  This causes the other colors to become brave, and so, Yellow becomes 2, Green becomes 3, and so on.  It takes Blue a bit longer, but with a little more bullying from Red, Blue stands up for himself and says NO! He becomes 6.

Red feels left out. He tries to skulk away, but Blue sends out an olive branch, by saying “Can’t Red be hot, AND Blue be cool?”. Red becomes 7.

This is such a simple, yet powerful,  story about standing up for yourself, but also about standing up for others. While I’m not sure the kids got the WHOLE message, they did understand that Red was not being nice. They didn’t like his behavior.

Obviously it takes more than one story to stop bullying.  But I think that planting the seeds of tolerance and acceptance in preschool is a good thing. I’m trying to do my part.

Sometimes, it just takes 1.

5 Responses to “Sometimes it just takes One.”

  1. Nicole October 21, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    As soon as I read this post I had to go find this book and it is amazing! I too was bullied and know exactly how you feel and it’s a horrible feeling. No one should be treated that way, ever. I sometimes wish I could find that girl and tell her how I really felt back then and how much pain she caused me. But then I think, no, I’m better than her. Whatever happened in my past made me the wonderful person I am today, and that goes for you too Mary!

  2. Marcy James October 21, 2010 at 10:53 am #

    I talked to Katheryn Otoshi at ALA a couple of years ago and found both she and her book amazing. In her first drafts the spots had faces. Then she made the decision to leave them blank and more anonymous. The colors could be anyone or just an emotion. I love this book. I have never tried it on such a young crowd but book talked it for upper elementary and they really seem to get the message. I suggest it to parents, art teachers, librarians…anyone who will listen!

  3. Babette October 21, 2010 at 9:34 am #

    Thanks, Mary, for the book rec. It’ll definitely be going on my book order!
    But thanks most of all for sharing your story. It’s easy as a “grown-up” to lose touch with how painful childhood can be. And how much difference one person can make, no matter their age. You’re wonderful with your kids cause you remember being a kid, with all it’s good and bad

  4. missmaryliberry October 20, 2010 at 9:21 pm #

    Thank you, Melissa.

  5. Melissa Depper October 20, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

    Hey, Mary! You are beautiful and amazing! Thank you for trying this book with preschoolers, and thanks for writing this post.

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