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Area children recently received a lesson in dealing with a major problem: Bullying. And this was all accomplished by those in attendance at Columbus Public Library by learning about some magical little beans.

The Columbus Public Library, with help from the Columbus Area United Way, on Thursday evening, hosted the “Bully B.E.A.N.S (Bullies Everywhere Are Now Stopped)” in an effort to educate children on how they, with some help from friends, parents and teachers, can stop bullies in their tracks.

The children had the chance to listen to a reading of a book, “Bully B.E.A.N.S”, written by Fremont native and former school counselor Julia Cook, that talks about a girl named Bebette who is a menace to children at her school. The children don’t know what to do until one of them receives some special beans or “Bully B.E.A.N.S” that can give them the confidence to stand up to Bebette. At the end, Bebette stops bullying the kids and everyone lives happily ever after.

Brad Hruska, children’s librarian at CPL, said that the book was relatable for the kids in attendance mainly because one of the children in the book is right around their age.

“The cool thing about a book like this is (that) they can actually relate to the character,” Hruska said. “They can relate and learn about how to stand up to a bully and how to deal with a situation when they find themselves being bullied.”

The library received plenty of help from Denise Kollath, who serves as program coordinator for the United Way. Kollath and the United Way have been working with the library on the event for the last three years. The event’s proximity to the beginning of the school year is no coincidence, as they can use the strategies learned from the event at school to stop themselves and others from falling prey to bullies.

“This time works really well for the kids because before they go back to school, this is in their minds,” Kollath said. “If anything happens in school, they know the way to handle a bully or they know they can go talk to a teacher or a counselor and use the things that are suggested in the book.”

United Way representatives have many copies of books that they give out through events like this, thanks to a grant received from the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation.

“We’ve been able to use these to give out to children at these different events,” Kollath said.

Children also participated in activities designed to teach tolerance to all people, regardless of what they look like or who they are. They had some help from Lynn Vollbracht, director of Immanuel Lutheran Preschool & Daycare. Vollbracht used apples to teach them that they all have something special on the inside, whether they know it or not. She cut up one of the apples to show a star-like design in the apple’s core, showing that one shouldn’t hurt their stars on the inside.

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“What I really hope to help kids understand is that differences are what makes us special,” Vollbracht said. “Differences are what we should celebrate with each other and not bully about. Looking for those things in our friends that make them different is a way to celebrate each other. I really want them to understand that being a friend means accepting differences.”

Vollbracht looks toward parents to be the leaders in helping their kids talk about what happens at school and trying to avoid a situation in which someone is harmed by a bully. Fear is a significant factor in children not wanting to talk about being bullied, and Vollbracht wants them to understand that they can talk to any adult in order to ensure a safe learning environment.

“Tell somebody that it’s happening,” Vollbracht said. “People can’t help if they don’t know that it’s going on. Mr. Rogers is one of my all-time favorites, and he has a little clip that he says when he was little and there were scary things on the news, his mom would say to him, ‘Look around for the big people who are helping. There are always helpers when bad things are happening.’ I love that.”

Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at zachary.roth@lee.net.

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Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at zachary.roth@lee.net.

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