Author coaches children on how to handle bulliesA woman formerly tormented for her big teeth now sits before children, teaching them how to react to those who bully them. Author, columnist and public speaker Jodi Rae Ingstad uses a talk-to-the-hand gesture and a “ch-ch” of the lips to ward of those who would make her feel bad about herself. Those reactions, she says, stop bullies and block out any insults or gossip they want to spread.
A woman formerly tormented for her big teeth now sits before children, teaching them how to react to those who bully them.
Author, columnist and public speaker Jodi Rae Ingstad uses a talk-to-the-hand gesture and a “ch-ch” of the lips to ward of those who would make her feel bad about herself. Those reactions, she says, stop bullies and block out any insults or gossip they want to spread.
“Then the bully has to back down,” she said.
Ingstad, who lives north of Valley City, authored the book and now the newspaper column, “Blonde on the Prairie.” She’s traveled the world and made success for herself as an adult, but as a child, her classmates teased her, calling her “beaver girl” and “horse head.”
Bullying has become a hot-button issue in recent years.
In North Dakota, the state passed an anti-bullying law in March defining bullying and requiring school districts to have bullying policies by July 1, 2012.
The legislation came to issue, in part, after the death of 16-year-old Cassidy Joy Andel of Cooperstown, N.D., who died by suicide in November 2010. Officials said bullying may have played a role.
“It’s just tragic that little kids are growing up like that,” Ingstad said.
Eight percent of children say they are bullied every day, according to a survey done by kidshealth.org. Thirty-three percent said they were bullied once in a while, but not every week.
The same students were asked how often they bully another student. Of them, 58 percent said they never bullied others while 22 percent said they bullied others once in a while, 5 percent said they bullied others every week and 15 percent said they bullied others every day.
School resource officer Nick Hardy said bullying is one of the top three issues at Jamestown Public Schools, behind alcohol and prescription drug abuse.
Bullying is the topic of a two-week Drug Abuse Resistance Education program taught to sixth graders, and students throughout the district learn about it every year, he said. Although, at Jamestown, about 1 percent of the students account for about 90 percent of disciplinary infractions he handles, Hardy said, saying most of the students at Jamestown Public Schools are “good kids.”
To Hardy, the prevalence of bullying is similar to what it was when he graduated from high school 15 years ago, but awareness of it has increased.
“The bullies have low self-esteem. They do it to make themselves feel better,” he said.
But cyberbullying — insulting and spreading rumors online using Facebook, online video games or through cell phones and text messaging — is unique to this generation. Before, bullies were limited to classrooms and playgrounds. Now, they’re in computers, TVs and video games, which connect at home.
“The kids can’t escape bullying,” said Jennifer Senger, children’s librarian at Alfred Dickey Public Library, who is helping coordinate the book reading.
Senger said she too was a victim of bullying. Girls at school terrorized her for her glasses and her short hair, she said. The wounds of bullying can take a lifetime to heal, she said. And had she not been bullied, perhaps she would have more success in school. With this presentation, she hopes other children don’t have to endure what she did.
So the Alfred Dickey Public Library and Ingstad are presenting a book reading of “The Big Galoot.” Shadoe Stevens authored the story about Warren Galoot, who has a long, pointed head and hands so large they drag on the floor. His classmates at Middleberg School tease and mock him, but Galoot pays no mind.
“I’m a Galoot, but I have good luck, you can’t get me down, I never give up,” is the anthem the character repeats to himself throughout the story.
Galoot, his classmates and a yak named Jewel, run into danger on a field trip. The very oddities for which Galoot was teased in the beginning, turn into the very tools he uses to rescue those who had mocked him.
Stevens’ original name is Terry Ingstad. He grew up in Jamestown, the son of Keith and Laverne Ingstad. He made his name in radio, and later moved to California where he worked on several programs including a six-year stint hosting “American Top 40.”
Stevens is Ingstad’s brother-in-law.
In addition to reading the book, Ingstad says she makes the presentation interactive and allows students to share how they were bullied or if they themselves bully. She gives her “ch-ch” demonstration to two students in the audience as one of the ways to counteract a bully. And some of those children, really need it, she said.
“When you look in a child’s eyes and you know they’re having a tough time,” she said.
The theatrical reading is set for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 29 at Alfred Dickey Public Library. There is no cost to attend. Copies of “The Big Galoot” will be available for $12.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan-Anderson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by e-mail at kryan-anderson@ jamestownsun.com