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'Sticks and Stones'

In between the lovely escapist novels and thrillers you're using to while away the summer, add this to your reading list: Sticks and Stones, Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy by Emily Bazelon.

Finally, we get a solid story on what is going on with our teens and tweens today. Written by a journalist - and a mom, Sticks and Stones is not only an objective, deeply researched look at this complex issue, it is also a roadmap - for parents, teachers and educatiors - for dealing with it.

After years of sensationalist news coverage and overwrought documentaries, Bazelon's book gets to the real story.

She embeds herself in the families and towns rocked by three high-profile bullying cases, including that of Phoebe Prince, which made international headlines as a story of a girl bullied to death.

Of course, it was not that simple.

The range of behavior that kids, parents and schools are grappling with is extremely complicated, too. Schools are overreacting to "drama" between kids, labeling every instance of name-calling as "bullying" - or turning a blind eye to even serious physical harm. 

Parents are often frustrated in seeking justice for their kids and have even had to sue for protection - or the right to change schools.

Throw social media into the mix and that complicates things further - can/should schools police that? Why aren't parents monitoring this? Why isn't Facebook? Bazelon lays a big helping of blame on the site for not doing enough to protect its millions of teen members.

This is an uncomfortable topic to delve into. But as a parent striving to raise children of good character, who understand that bullying behavior is wrong, that gossip, name-calling and all the other "drama" - online and off - is hurtful and who have the courage to stand up for themselves and others, this is your bible.

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