Lily’s Story – a Bibliotherapy Tale
When I first heard Lily’s story, I was SO SO SO proud of her. In fact, I was a little in awe. She’s so little — in age and in size — yet so courageous.
Then, I kept thinking about it… and I’d smile… and sigh, wishing for a bit of that courage at her young age (and even at my not-so-young age!) I thought about it some more, and decided I wanted to share this story with someone who would get it — someone who might need to know about it and pass it along somehow. Since Lily’s mother gave me permission to share…here goes…
My Secret Bully
It all started with a second grade lesson on author’s purpose.Toward the end, I was book talking a stack of titles and letting my students discuss what the authors’ purposes might be. After awhile, I held up an “Everyone” book called My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig.
As soon as I started describing the plot of this book, it seemed like my kids’ engagement bumped up a notch or two. Something about Monica and Katie, and their somewhat off-kilter friendship, struck a cord of recognition, I think. I saw little heads nodding slightly and mouths frowning just a bit. It appeared that several of my students could relate to Monica’s experience. I had the quick thought that some of them might also have a “friend” who for whatever reason has begun mean name-calling, undeserved exclusion, and purposeful embarrassment in front of other students. Soon, a copy of Ms. Ludwig’s book was in Lily’s hands. She checked it out and took it home.
A week or so later, Lily’s grandmother came to volunteer in the library, and she mentioned the book. Apparently, Lily’s mother had read it to Lily that very night. Afterward, Lily’s mother had quietly asked her if she had noticed anything familiar about the story. Lily nodded and the story of her own classroom bully came tumbling out. Just this moment of understanding and connection between a mother and daughter would have been enough to melt this librarian’s heart… but wait, there’s more.
It turns out that brave, young Lily took the story to heart and confronted her personal Katie at school later that week. Lily told the other girl that she was tired of being bullied and that it had to stop. The other little girl denied any wrongdoing at first, but Lily stood firm on the issue and explained exactly what she would do if any bullying occurred again.
Now, if this was an old, after-school special from days gone by, the two might have ended up besties or something. That hasn’t happened… yet… and it may not. The happy ending of this story is that an author wrote a very special book about a difficult subject. She wrote it in such a way that a little girl saw herself in the main character’s shoes — and recognized a bad situation in a familiar light. Like Monica in the story, Lily was able to talk the situation over with a very supportive mother. Together, Lily and her mother talked about how to confront the person who was causing Lily’s angst. Then, Lily gathered her courage and took the next step… she confronted the other girl kindly, but firmly… and believe it or not, things are better. Not perfect, but better.
Librarians call the use of books to promote healing of some kind… bibliotherapy. It’s a wonderful and powerful tool. It’s what we do… we get books in the hands of kids who need them. It was a privilege to see the concept play out so beautifully in our little library media center.