Self-worth, confidence, and self-esteem are the three qualities that can empower children and instill in them the strength to be true to themselves and empathize with others.

Vicki Fraser is very familiar with these three qualities since they are the ones that informed her own upbringing when her mother would stress that she had a reason to be here, and even as a child her opinions and feelings mattered and should be respected. Vicki, now an elementary teacher for the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board with a family of her own, mentions how her parents spoke about being deserving and how everyone has rights, such as the right to be happy in the morning. Vicki’s father would talk about being strong, and getting through rough times and how to be independent. To help his children get through life’s obstacles, Vicki’s dad would tell stories of when he stood up respectfully when someone did something he felt was wrong. Vicki still remembers as a child witnessing a boy being bullied and how she was unsure how to help. Parents are key in modeling to their children ways in which they can stand up for themselves and others using a respectful approach.

Vicki’s inspiration for her award-winning book Dear Bully of Mine not only derived from the important teachings of her parents, but also her own experiences as a teacher at McCaig Elementary School in Rosemère. Her goal in writing this book is to open up conversations about bullying with parents, teachers, principals, and children in schools.

She wrote the book to coincide with the anti-homophobic week that took place at her school when students focused on discussions around how we treat other people. They discussed how we all have differences, but there are people who will focus on those differences. Vicki asked her students to start writing about bullying, and to encourage them, Vicki wrote a poem on the subject. Her own students came to her with stories of their experiences with bullying. Vicki mentions how at least one student each year feels they do not want to come to school anymore.

When asked if the school curriculum reflects this need to increase focus on anti-bullying, Vicki replies, “Not quite yet.” There are programs in schools such as Zero Tolerance; it requires the school to record any bullying incidents and to deal with them appropriately. Usually, both sets of parents are notified in these instances. Vicki mentions how teachers have to take it upon themselves to include the subject of bullying in the classroom when they discuss the topic of how differences are a wonderful thing.

Dear Bully of Mine is unique in that it deals with both the bully and the victim.
From her childhood, Vicki remembers meeting an ill-tempered kid and then while growing up she saw how the bully’s own parents bullied him. She realized that he was simply emulating the bullying-type behaviour he was receiving from his own parents. Vicki’s goal was to have her young readers understand there might be something wrong with the bully and not the victim. This takes the focus off the victim who may believe they are the cause of their own bullying. This also helps students better understand this negative behavior; the fact they are bullied does not mean they should bully their own brothers, sisters, and/or friends.

As a teacher, Vicki has encountered many instances of bullying and she feels there are times to just ignore it and times when we must give kids the tools how to deal with it. Teach them when it is the right moment to intervene and when to tell someone in authority.

The idea to publish a book on bullying came when Domnizelles publisher, Genevieve Rossignol, who was a parent of one of Vicki’s students, recognized the importance of the topic and encouraged Vicki to rewrite her poem as a rhyming book. Domnizelles Publications arranged for the illustrations, which Vicki likes because they appeal to older children who might feel the book is too young for them. Vicki used her students as a test audience and they helped her choose the cover for the book. Vicki trusted her students and Genevieve completely as she worked through the final editing process. Vicki feels that the book is a success because the children are able to say everything they need to say to the bully without being interrupted. In Dear Bully of Mine, the victim takes ownership over the bully.

In some cases, parents might shy away from the topic if they were bullied themselves or witnessed bullying in their childhood and are concerned about passing on their fear to their children. Instead, Vicki encourages parents to discuss these incidents with their children in the hopes that their children will learn how to fix what their parents could not. Vicki hopes that her book will encourage parents to have discussions about bullying with their kids. As Vicki mentions, “You need something to start the discussion whether it be this book, another book, a movie, etc., whatever helps start a discussion around the supper table.” Vicki, through her book, has indeed provided parents, teachers, and children with a great tool for opening up conversations on such an important topic.

Dear Bully of Mine won The Moonbeam Award for Best First Picture Book and is currently available in English and French at Indigo Laval, Chapters, Babars, and on Amazon.ca.

Vicki’s How to Say Goodbye Forever, is a children’s book written for children who are dealing with the death of someone very special to them. It was published in November 2014 and is also available at bookstores and online.

Visit Domnizelles Publications for more information on books published by local authors: http://www.domnizelles.com/