Our Friends' Favorites: Emily Bazelon on Meaningful Books for Kids and Grown-Ups

For books that teach about empathy, bullying, and some of the social challenges that come with growing up, look no further. By Common Sense Media Editors
Our Friends' Favorites: Emily Bazelon on Meaningful Books for Kids and Grown-Ups

For this installment of Our Friends' Favorites -- in which we ask Common Sense Media's friends and partners to share their top media picks -- we turn to Emily Bazelon, American journalist and senior editor for online magazine Slate to find out which books she recommends for kids, parents, and teachers. Emily is the author of national bestseller Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. Here are Emily's picks, in her own words:

For Little Kids

  • Ben Rides On, by Matt Davies. A picture book with whimsical and friendly illustrations in which the bully (delightfully) redeems himself.

For Big Kids

  • Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. August Pullman has a serious birth defect that left his face misshapen. When he goes to school for the first time in fifth grade, he has to negotiate his classmates' hesitation and even disgust -- and his own fears, too. An incredibly moving and closely observed portrait, filled with empathy and wit. For age 9 to 90 (and it's a great audio book).

For Tweens and Teens

  • Vintage Veronica, by Erica S. Perl. At 15, Veronica is "fashion-minded, fat, and friendless," as the author puts it. When two older girls she works with at a vintage clothing store convince her to spy on a socially awkward stock boy, Veronica finds herself in the middle of much more than a prank and has to navigate the surprising dynamics that result.
  • Blue Boy, by Rakesh Satyal. The story of Kiran Sharma, a 12-year-old Indian boy growing up in the '90s in Cincinnati who is mocked for playing with dolls and choosing ballet over basketball -- and then has a divine revelation. Frequently taught in high school; much food for thought for teenagers.
  • Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, by Meg Medina. Piddy Sanchez earns the enmity of a girl she doesn't even know, a girl tough enough to beat her up in a video that goes viral. Piddy has to figure out how to get her life and dignity back.

For Parents

  • Oddly Normal, by John Schwartz. A New York Times reporter's acutely felt memoir about raising his gay son, who tried to kill himself after coming out to his classmates at the age of 13. Especially insightful about the challenges of advocating for a child with unresponsive school officials.
  • It's Complicated, by danah boyd. In interviews with teenagers around the country, boyd explores different facets of their online lives. How do they define bullying vs. drama? What's their conception of privacy on the Internet? What are the advantages and disadvantages of getting to know people via social media? This book investigates those questions and locates them in the academic framework boyd knows well.

For Educators

  • Bullying and Cyberbullying: What Every Educator Needs to Know, by Elizabeth Kandel Englander. This is the essential book for principals, guidance counselors, and teachers grappling with how their schools should address bullying. It's full of wisdom, practical advice, and original research, all of which reflect Englander's status as one of the foremost experts in the field.

If you're in New York, we invite you to join Emily Bazelon, Chelsea Clinton, Dr. Howard Gardner, and Common Sense Media founder Jim Steyer at an upcoming event on November 21 to talk about inspiring empathy and helping kids develop 21st-century skills. Also, find Emily on Twitter at @EmilyBazelon.

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