To Build or Destroy – The Power of Our Words

pink-shirt1Bullying is a major problem in our schools, workplaces, homes, and over the Internet. During the month of February, many organizations across Canada will work to raise awareness on this issue and give us the tools needed to stand up against bullying and step in when we see it happening. February 25th is Pink Shirt Day and it is recognized in schools across Canada and worldwide by wearing pink in support of anti-bullying. 

I would like to share an animation that highlights the power of our words. Words (which is also the introduction post to Words on a Limb) has truly become one of my favourite videos to share with students when discussing issues around bullying and raising awareness of the impact we have on others through speech and actions. The power of our words can never be underestimated. To build or destroy, it is always our choice.

Creative Commons License
Words by Lora Rozler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Here is a snippet of the Globe & Mail article that describes how Pink Shirt Day began:

“David Shepherd, Travis Price and their teenage friends organized a high-school protest to wear pink in sympathy with a Grade 9 boy who was being bullied [for wearing a pink shirt]…[They] took a stand against bullying when they protested against the harassment of a new Grade 9 student by distributing pink T-shirts to all the boys in their school.

‘I learned that two people can come up with an idea, run with it, and it can do wonders,’ says Mr. Price, 17, who organized the pink protest. ‘Finally, someone stood up for a weaker kid.’

So Mr. Shepherd and some other headed off to a discount store and bought 50 pink tank tops. They sent out message to schoolmates that night, and the next morning they hauled the shirts to school in a plastic bag.

As they stood in the foyer handing out the shirts, the bullied boy walked in. His face spoke volumes. ‘It looked like a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders,’ Mr. Price recalled.

The bullies were never heard from again.”

It is not always easy to broach difficult topics with our children and students. This is where great literature comes in handy in opening a platform for discussion and reflection. Below is a collection of wonderful picture books to provoke questions about bullying, both as victims and perpetrators. Feel free to share other great books you’ve come across in the comment box below.  I will be more than happy to add them to our list.

The Bully Blockers ClubThe Bully Blockers Club by Teresa Bateman

The new school year brings a bully to Lotty Raccoon’s classroom. No matter what she and the other kids try, Grant Grizzly won’t stop bullying them. Eventually Lotty gets the idea for those who are being bullied to form a Bully Blockers Club to speak out whenever they see Grant bothering someone. Soon almost everyone is speaking out when they see bullying.

My Secret BullyMy Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig

Monica and Katie have been friends since kindergarten. But Monica has a secret: Katie bullies her sometimes. She gossips about her to their other friends, and sometimes she excludes and threatens Monica. Finally, with guidance from her mom, Monica gains the courage to stand up to Katie and share how she feels: “…. friends don’t do that to friends,” and learns that sometimes friendships must end when they’re not healthy ones.

Edwardo the Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide WorldEdwardo: The Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World by John Burningham

“Edwardo was an ordinary boy.” But whenever he does something a bit bad, he’s told how horrible he is. Soon his behavior is cruel and awful. But when he accidentally does something bad that has good consequences and is complimented, Edwardo eventually becomes “the nicest boy in the whole wide world.”

Bully by Patricia Polacco

Lyla finds a great friend in Jamie on her first day of school, but when Lyla makes the cheerleading squad and a clique of popular girls invites her to join them, Jamie is left behind. Lyla knows bullying when she sees it, though, and when she sees the girls viciously teasing classmates on Facebook, including Jamie, she is smart enough to get out. But no one dumps these girls, and now they’re out for revenge.

Patricia Polacco has taken up the cause against bullies ever since Thank You, Mr. Falker, and her passion shines through in this powerful story of a girl who stands up for a friend.

Willow Finds a WayWillow Finds a Way by Lana Button

Willow is thrilled the whole class — including her! — is invited to classmate Kristabelle’s fantastic birthday party, until the bossy birthday girl starts crossing guests off the list when they dare cross her. There are many books on bullying, but Willow’s story offers a unique look at how to handle the situation as a bystander.

Ben Rides OnBen Rides On by Matt Davies

Ben loves riding his bike to school – especially the long way – but he doesn’t love the bully Adrian Underbite, especially when Adrian steals his beloved bike! When Ben encounters Adrian in a precarious and life-threatening position, he must decide whether to help this bike-stealing bully.

ChrysanthemumChrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum absolutely loves her name, until she goes to school and nearly everyone makes fun of her. Chrysanthemum begins to hate her name and question her own worthiness, until a teacher with a special name of her own reminds Chrysanthemum how perfect she and her name are.

Goal!Goal! by Mina Javaherbin

The streets in this town in South Africa are not always safe, so when the narrator and his five friends come together to play soccer in an alley, they are careful, especially because they have a brand new federation-sized football. When they are discovered by a group of bullies, the boys must use their ingenuity to thwart the intruders from stealing the ball and taking away their hopes and dreams.

Bullies Never WinBullies Never Win by Margery Cuyler

When the class bully, Brenda Bailey, makes fun of Jessica’s skinny legs and her boyish lunch box, Jessica doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t want to be a tattletale, but she also wants the bullying to stop. Can Jessica find the courage to stand up for herself? From the team behind the first three books about Jessica and her worries, Bullies Never Win is immediately relatable, relevant, and a must-have for every school and library.

Say SomethingSay Something by Peggy Moss

A young girl witnesses several acts of bullying at school and does nothing, until a day when she is teased and considers how those being bullied must feel.

WingsWings by Christopher Myers

New boy Icarus Jackson has wings. While his classmates and teachers laugh at him or find him an impediment, one girl sees his specialness and finally has the courage to stand up for him and to tell Icarus that his flying is beautiful.

Each KindnessEach Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

Each kindness makes the world a little better

Chloe and her friends won’t play with the new girl, Maya. Maya is different–she wears hand-me-downs and plays with old-fashioned toys. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her gang, they reject her. Eventually, Maya plays alone, and then stops coming to school altogether. When Chloe’s teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she’d shown a little kindness toward Maya.

Cover image for Stop Picking on Me: A First Look at BullyingStop Picking on Me: A First Look at Bullying by Pat Thomas

This approachable picture book explores the difficult issue of bullying among children. It helps kids accept the normal fears and worries that accompany bullying, and suggests ways to resolve this upsetting experience.

Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester

Poor Rodney Rat can’t pronounce his R’s and the other rodents tease him mercilessly. But when Camilla Capybara joins Rodney’s class and announces that she is bigger, meaner, and smarter than any of the other rodents, everyone is afraid. It seems she really is bigger, meaner, and smarter than all of the rest of them. Until our unwitting hero, Wodney Wat, catches Camilla out in a game of Simon Says. Read along with Wodney as he surprises himself and his classmates by single-handedly saving the whole class from the big bad bully. Children will delight as shy Rodney Rat triumphs over all and his tiny voice decides the day, R’s or no R’s.

Pinduli by Jannel Cannon

Pinduli’s mama has always told her that she’s the most beautiful hyena ever. But Dog, Lion, and Zebra don’t think so. Why else would they make her feel so rotten about her big ears, her fuzzy mane, and her wiggly stripes? Poor Pinduli just wants to disappear–and she tries everything she can think of to make that happen. Yet nothing goes her way. Nothing, that is, until a case of mistaken identity lets her show the creatures of the African savanna how a few tiny words–bad or good–can create something enormous.

Product DetailsLlama Llama and the Bully Goat by Anna Dewdney

Llama Llama is learning lots of new things at school and making many friends. But when Gilroy Goat starts teasing him and some of their classmates, Llama Llama isn’t sure what to do. And then he remembers what his teacher told him—walk away and tell someone. It works! But then Llama Llama feels badly. Can he and Gilroy try to be friends again?

The Juice Box Bully by Bob Sornson

Have you ever seen a bully in action and done nothing about it? The kids at Pete’s new school get involved, instead of being bystanders. When Pete begins to behave badly, his classmates teach him about “The Promise”. Will Pete decide to shed his bullying habits and make “The Promise”?

Weird! by Erin Frankel

Luisa is repeatedly teased and called “weird” by her classmate Sam, even though she is simply being herself—laughing with her friends, answering questions in class, greeting her father in Spanish, and wearing her favorite polka-dot boots. Luisa initially reacts to the bullying by withdrawing and hiding her colorful nature. But with the support of her teachers, parents, classmates, and one special friend named Jayla, she is able to reclaim her color and resist Sam’s put-downs.

21001138Lucy and the Bully by Claire Alexander

Lucy is good at drawing and making things at school. But there_s a bully at school, and he_s very mean to Lucy. She can_t tell anyone the bully rips her books and breaks her things, because he told her not to_or else! Now every day she comes home scared and sad. What can Lucy do? And who can Lucy tell?

Just KiddingJust Kidding by Trudy Ludwig

A rare look at emotional bullying among boys from the best-selling author of My Secret Bully.D.J.’s friend Vince has a habit of teasing D.J. and then saying, Just kidding!” as if it will make everything okay. It doesn’t, but D.J. is afraid that if he protests, his friends will think he can’t take a joke. With the help of his father, brother, and an understanding teacher, D.J. progresses from feeling helpless to taking positive action, undermining the power of two seemingly harmless words. Trudy Ludwig takes another look at relational aggression, the use of relationships to manipulate and hurt others, this time from the boy’s point of view.

You’re Mean, Lily Jean by Frieda Wishinsky

Carly always played with her big sister, Sandy. They played dragons adn knights. They played explorers and pirates. They played mountain climbers and astronauts. Then Lily Jean moved in next door. Carly and Sandy are happy to have a new friend join their games. But Lily Jean changes everything. She decides they’ll play house and orders Carly to be the baby. When they play king and queen, she tells Carly to bark–King Lily Jean demands a royal dog! Tired of being bossed around, Carly comes up with a way to teach Lily a lesson. With Sandy’s help, can she turn a bully into a friend?

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wordsOn February 25th, let’s come together to show that we stand up against bullying and stand for diversity and individuality. For more information and to get involved please visit Pink Shirt Day.

With peace and love,



4 thoughts on “To Build or Destroy – The Power of Our Words

  1. Hi Lora,

    Thank you for writing and sharing your poem and the article from Globe and Mail. I know how hurtful, painful, low self esteem, afraid and anger both kids and teenagers who are constantly going through it daily feel. I have seen and heard about kids and teenagers who committed suicides and were afraid to speak up about it. I know all about this because I was a victim too. From grade 8 to grade 12, I was constantly teased, called by names, shoved, pulled, pushed, laughed at and some kids put mean signs behind my back. I would come home in tears daily. I didn’t tell my parents because I was afraid of what the kids would do to me if they found out I told on them. So I kept quiet and kept everything to myself. I had no friend and I was always by myself. During lunch breaks I had always went to my next class and sat down at the front desk and worked on my previous classes homework. Like many of those kids and teenagers who committed suicide because they couldn’t take it no more, I was on that path too many times. The number one thing that always came to mind was my family and what it will do to them. That’s what always stopped me. Through my family love and support, I have graduated high school with honor awards and graduated college with an Early Childhood Assistant certificate. It has all happened to me because I have an amazing family who had always supported, loved, cared, and had always been on my side. I’ll always be thankful to them.
    Even though the bullying subject was never brought up in schools in my time, I’m very thankful that its being talked and taught in schools now. My sons elementary school is teaching the students from grades 1 to 8 about bullying every year at the beginning of the school year. I’m very hopeful all this school talk, T.V. commercials, internet ads, talk show hosts and word of a limb will help stop anti bullying for good and no kid will have to go through that anymore.

    Thank you Lora for finally making me come out and share my piece of locked life with everyone.
    I hope my story will help others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sabina, I am SO so sorry to hear about the pain you had gone through. It saddens and breaks my heart to know that such horrible things happened. I am glad to know that those experiences did not break you, but instead made you stronger, and I am happy to know you have such an amazing family that pulled you through those horrible times. You are a beautiful person – inside and out! Thank you for sharing your story!!! I truly hope that anyone who may be going through similar thoughts/feelings/experiences finds shelter in your words. Bullying must stop! I hope we are that much closer to calling it history!


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