"Not the Hippopotamus" by Sandra Boynton: A Story of Exclusion

April 9, 2016
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Cody Simpson

We spend a lot of our time at Defeat the Label talking with students through our Upstander and In Your School programs. These programs are geared to students in grades K-12. Talking about bullying and peer alienation in High Schools and Middle Schools is always a rewarding experience.  The students have reached an age where they understand the concepts and they can grasp the differences between teasing, bullying and general alienation of their peers.

However, grasping the differences is a struggle for many elementary school students. In particular, talking with students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. These students tend to have a hard time separating bullying from teasing and knowing the difference between the two.  So it comes as no surprise that some of the more common questions and emails we get from parents involve how to explain these concepts to their young children.

Recently, I came across a great book called “Not the Hippopotamus” by Sandra Boynton. This quick story, does a great job of depicting the hurt feelings that someone, in this case, the hippo, feels when he sees all of his friends go out time and time again and fail to invite him. “But not the hippopotamus” is a constant refrain in the book.  Using quick dialogue and snappy writing, Boynton does an excellent job of showing young children, how it feels to leave someone out of the fun, and how badly it can make them feel.  

What books have you used to explain bullying or teasing to your kids?  What do you think works?  Let us know in the comments.  

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