Watching Mad Men, it’s hard to imagine that not long ago, it was acceptable to light a cigarette in your office or your airplane seat. Or to jump behind the wheel of a car after a scotch on the rocks, or three. These massive mindset changes are the result of successful re-education.
Can we achieve this seismic shift toward bullying?
On the tail of Bullying Awareness Week comes an attempt to do just that. My Friend Clyde is an illustrated, colourful book for children ages 3-7. The book is intended to penetrate the minds and hearts of pre-schoolers, targeting bullying before it begins.
First-time author Jason Kendal was frustrated because he was unable to help his younger sister, Jacquelyn, who was often bullied at school. He believes the key to breaking the cycle is to introduce the conversation to a much younger audience.
“I have seen first-hand the emotional and physical effects of bullying. My sister was often bullied and I needed to do something to help others in this situation,” says Kendal. “I wrote My Friend Clyde to introduce the concept of bullying to children at a young, impressionable age. The book is a key tool that educators, parents and grandparents will now have available to begin an age-appropriate and important dialogue regarding acceptance and respect. We must change the conversation – bullying must not be perceived as kids being kids.”
To eradicate victimization, Kendal believes that we must change common perceptions while children are still primarily influenced by parents and educators rather than their peers. Bullying should not be considered a “rite of passage,” he says, citing a recent study in which a frightening 75 per cent of respondents said they were bullied at some point during school. Even more disturbing are the mental health repercussions; both victims and perpetrators of bullying have a greater propensity to depression in later life.
Jacquelyn Kendal, the inspiration behind My Friend Clyde, says: “When I was being bullied I always wondered why this was happening to me, and why I had to be the one who was different. Not only did I feel upset, angry and lonely but I blamed myself for how I was treated. It took a long time but I have finally accepted the person I am today. I can’t make people treat me nicely but I can make sure that I am good to others. I will always have a learning disability but that is not all that I am.” Jacquelyn broadens the reach of the message by facilitating book readings at school.
The news is time sensitive, not only because the statistics on the repercussions of bullying – including suicide – are alarming, but because the book is part of a Kickstarter campaign. The Kendals need to raise $6,050 to publish the book – including 500 copies to be donated to schools, libraries and non-profits – and to complete an accompanying interactive website. A portion of all sales will be directed to anti-bullying not-for-profit causes. This particular campaign operates under an “all-or-nothing” funding model, so if the My Friend Clyde project doesn’t reach its goal at the end of 30 days then this book will not see the light of day.