A recent study done by the National Education Association found that bullying affects one in three American schoolchildren in grades 6 through 10.
ABC 10’s Rick Tarsitano sat down with a former Ishpeming teacher who is hoping to curb the problem before it starts.
Milly Balzarini has always loved two things: books and children. She has three kids of her own and five grandchildren who love to be read to.
After taking a children’s literature class at NMU, she decided to write one of her own pulling from her experiences as both a teacher and a student.
“I think as a child in school you see other kids that are getting picked on. And I always felt that it was wrong. Nobody would ever stand up for them. Now, when bullying is quite an issue, I thought, this would be something that teachers or parents could [use] to open up that door of communication and talk about how wrong bullying is,” noted Balzarini, a former teacher in the NICE Community Schools’ literacy program.
But to be able to illustrate the dangers, she needed some help. Which to her surprise, happened to be hanging right in front of her on her own family tree.
“One day when I found out that I had this wonderful relative who was an artist, I thought ‘Maybe he and I could collaborate and put together a children’s book,'” Balzarini added.
Something her colorful cousin never pictured himself doing.
“No I’d never done anything like this before. It’s really out of my character. As a younger man listening to the AC/DC and Metallica, I was drawing skulls and Batman busting someone up. So had you told me I would be drawing flowers and sheep and stuff at this time in my life, I would have just never believed it,” chuckled Mike Talo a local artist from Ishpeming.
But it’s easy to see from both his personality and his craft that Mike has a knack for bringing characters to life.
“The toughest part was trying to convey emotions in the faces of the characters as well as the animals. You have to be dead on with your eyes, the mouth, and even the way the hands are gestured. I, also, sometimes would just step in front of the mirror and start making different facial expressions to understand, ‘Okay, I’m happy this time’ or ‘I’m mad this time.’ And then I would figure out how to do my line drawings,” Talo explained.
And through the emotions beaming out of each character’s eye, children can begin to understand the fear bullying generates and appreciate the message of the book.
“You can influence another person not to play with somebody or not to include them in things or to treat them badly. I think this is something that kids aren’t going to learn unless their parents talk to them,” remarked Balzarini, a Negaunee native.
Hopefully, Stanley, his friends, and even that mean old Fox help in starting that conversation.