Next week is Anti-Bullying Week in the UK, when school-children throughout the country will take part in activities to help them:
“grow up with their respect of self and others intact, be fine participant citizens and, perhaps most importantly, become peacemakers in their hearts.”
This quotation comes from Peter Yarrow’s afterword of a remarkable picture book of Steve Seskin and Allen Shamblin’s deeply incisive but simple song Don’t Laugh at Me. The words of the song have become increasingly familiar since first being written just over ten years ago: but set here with Glin Dibley’s hauntingly expressive illustrations, and with certain words in the text highlighted in red, even young children will be able to respond to it, using their innate sense of justice to pull out the essence of the song’s message.
Be prepared for taking your time over it: each line triggers all sorts of questions and discussion. Reading this book to your own children or to a class of young children is a beautiful way to introduce them to the notion that “difference” should make no difference. They will appreciate the juxtapositions in the illustrations, like the one of the boy in a helmet in a wheelchair – in that order: the wheelchair is actually the last thing you notice.
There’s also a cd at the back and kids of all ages will enjoy listening to the song, performed so gently and meditatively by the song-writers themselves.
Peter Yarrow, quoted above, founded Operation Respect and a percentage of the sales of the book goes to their “Don’t Laugh at Me” project… And there’s also a Spanish edition. Reading Zone has just placed it in in its Top Ten Picture Books. So what are you waiting for?