Asheville Citizen-Times Review - We Want You to Know

Reviewed by: Jennifer Prince

Inspired by her work with an anti-bullying committee in her hometown of Ontario, author Deborah Ellis has written a powerful book, "We Want You to Know: Kids Talk about Bullying."

Using interviews with dozens of youths between the ages of 9 and 19, Ellis presents the shocking, brutal reality of bullying in schools. Each one of these young people has been bullied or was the one bullying.

While Ellis asks some standard questions as a springboard for the interviews, for the most part the interviews were directed by the youths themselves.

As a result, the information is presented in a frank, even revelatory way.

As the book progresses, Ellis dispels some dangerous misconceptions.

Bullying is not just a problem in big city schools. She points out that "all the kids interviewed in this book come from [her] little corner of Southern Ontario. This is a lovely part of a lovely country, and if bullying is happening here, then it's happening everywhere."

Furthermore, Ellis' presentations strike down the notion that dealing with bullying is an unavoidable rite of passage.

As the interviews progress, it becomes evident that bullying is a shape-shifter. Is it name-calling? Is it gossip? Is it bullying only if it involves physical confrontation?

The youths in these interviews make woefully clear that bullying is all of this and more.

For instance, Katie, 16, was homeschooled until seventh grade. When she joined public school, she was teased and ostracized because of her outsider status.

Adam, 10, was teased when he got eyeglasses. The teasing escalated to physical violence.

One of the ones doing the bullying, Anonymous Girl, 13, enjoys teasing a classmate she dubs "R": "We'll sit right behind her on the bus and tell her, 'We're going to get you,' and 'We're coming after you' -- stuff like that, to make her afraid."

The interviews do more than just desribe the bullying. They chronicle the effects on those involved: depression, anger, frustration.

Serena, 12, describes being unable to sleep at night because she was so worried about being bullied. Also, she was "angry all the time at home and [picked] fights with [her] brother and sister. [She] stayed away from any activity where [the bully] might be -- at church and at school."

Also, some of the victims describe positive outcomes like newfound empathy and proactive behavior: Rebecca, 19, thinks she will be a good deaf-blind intervener and personal support worker "because [she knows] what it's like to feel vulnerable."

At the end of each interview, Ellis includes discussion questions such as "Are there kids at your school who consider themselves to be the cool kids? Where do ideas about what is cool come from?" and "How could the other students have made Katie feel more welcome?"

These questions can help communication channels between students and teachers, kids and parents.

Parents and teachers: Read this book! Share it with the young people in your lives. It is too important to pass over.

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