When students read works of fiction that reflect the diversity they will encounter in their daily lives, they are less likely to bully those who are different from them, author Michael Dahl writes for eSchool News.
Books allow students to understand someone else’s circumstances and empathize with those who might be poor, who have come from another country, or who don't have the same physical abilities as most children.
Reading also allows students, in a way, to rehearse for situations in which they might feel fear or be tempted to make fun of someone, Dahl writes.
Educators often say that literature should provide students a window into other people’s lives, but also a mirror that reflects what they are feeling and experiencing. While nonfiction can certainly describe the challenges a certain group of people might face, fiction can allow readers to feel as if they were part of the story as it unfolds and to ask themselves what they would do in the same situation.
Bullying prevention experts say that prevention strategies need to be integrated throughout the curriculum, not as separate add-on programs. This means that educators focusing on literature, including librarians and English language arts teachers, can use fiction texts that are part of their curriculum to address bullying issues.
Other curriculum experts note that providing access to books with diverse characters and themes is not only important for those students who might be able to relate to the story’s characters, but also for students who have not lived those types of experiences.