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How a school counselor uses The Revealers to build empathy

For school counselors and others interested in addressing bullying, "this book provides another modality for us to work with," says Tom Chamberlain, staff counselor at the Rutland (Vt.) Middle School. "Instead of offering students a pamphlet that might say, 'If you are bullied, do steps one through 10,' this novel gives us what bullying feels like.

"So often," Tom reflects, "these things are looked at in terms of 'What are the rules, and what should we do with somebody who behaves in this way?' But these behaviors happen for a reason. The emphasis of this book is not so much on complying with rules but on understanding behavior.

"A significant amount of research now is indicating that a significant antedote to bullying is empathy. The book provides us a safe way of looking at how we can relate to somebody, and empathize with them, no matter what their role.

"I also find the book is helpful for parents and adults, to be able to understand in a way beyond just telling about it," Tom adds. "The book gives us the experience of sensing the torment of the kids, and their frustration with how to deal with bullying, and how to deal with the response of the school."

Finally, for young people, "this book also provide the beginnings of a model for dealing with any social problem that's overwhelming. It shows the collaboration of kids together, in sharing their experiences and trusting one another—and problem-solving. When you break down the skills that kids need to learn, problem-solving is one of them. The book models this as something that kids turn to quite naturally, and take a risk to do.

"Kids sitting in front of the television do not see this—in fact they're seeing a model that promotes bullying, and aggressive behavior. I think the gift of this book is that it has a different meaning for kids," the school counselor concludes. "It's not preachy. It lets kids formulate their own conclusions."

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