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Author lectures kids about bullying

Portland writer Trudy Ludwig's book, 'My Secret Bully,' is gaining national recognition

ASHLAND ' Like most kids, Hannah Borgerson has seen her share of bullying of fellow students and herself.

It's no fun to be bullied, said Hannah, a third-grader at Helman Elementary School.

It's mean ... . I've been bullied a bit because I have long legs, but I just tell them I like my long legs, and I just walk off and pretend they're not there.

The issue of bullying is being raised in Ashland this week through a visit from Trudy Ludwig, a Portland children's book author who has written My Secret Bully, a book on verbal and psychological bullying involving two young girls.

The book was published in February by RiverWood Books of Ashland and has been touted nationally, including on Good Morning America.

— Ludwig is visiting all four Ashland elementary schools, as well as giving a talk on bullying for parents Thursday evening.

She spent the day Tuesday talking to students at Helman Elementary about bullying and how they can try to stop it.

Standing in front of a group of fifth-graders, Ludwig held a large paper cut-out of a person, who represented the main character of her book, as well as everyone in the room.

She asked the children to yell out some of the painful things the bully in the book did, each time crunching the paper doll until she was holding a crumbled ball of paper.

See, she got crushed by her friends, Ludwig said.

But, she said, with help, like the paper doll of her story, people can learn how to deal with the bullies and build themselves back up ' although she's still wrinkly, Ludwig said as she held up the doll.

Like scars from cutting yourself or falling down, the scars from being bullied linger on, she said.

It's a memory that will stay with us, Ludwig said. We carry that memory with us, and it affects us.

My Secret Bully is about a young girl, Monica, who is bullied by her friend, Katie, through name-calling, humiliation and exclusion. With the help of her mother, Monica learns how to cope, survive and thrive.

Ludwig emphasized to students the importance of telling an authority figure if they see someone being bullied.

I want to empower the kids, Ludwig said. They are very open and they wear their hearts on their sleeves. It's important to give kids skills to cope ... . This is an epidemic in our schools. It's a learned behavior and we have to unlearn it and break the cycle.

Ludwig, a freelance marketing writer, was inspired by the experiences of her daughter, Allie Long, now 10, who was picked on by a group of six girls she considered her friends during the first week of second grade.

Helman Principal Barbara Fields said bullying is an issue her school has been combating for years.

The effort includes conflict resolution seminars for faculty and staff and offering training for parents. Staff members also carefully watch for signs of bully behavior on the playground and in the classroom.

You can never learn enough, Fields said. You can see people get put down each night on prime time television. It's a societal problem that happens at school and needs to be dealt with.

Eight-year-old Angie Spellitch said she was glad Ludwig came and read her book to the school.

It was sad because I didn't like how that one girl was treating her friend, she said. It's important for kids to learn not to be bullies because kids don't like to be picked on.

Bullying is pervasive My Secret Bully author Trudy Ludwig cites several statistics to show how pervasive and damaging bullying is:

One in seven school children has been either bullied or the target of a bully.

Children who are bullied are five times more likely to be depressed and far more likely to be suicidal.

Bullies who were identified by the age of 8 are six times more likely to be convicted of a crime by the age of 24 than non-bullies.

In 37 school shootings reported from 1974 to June 2000, the U.S. Secret Service states, over a third of the school shooters had felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked, or injured by others prior to the incident.

Author Trudy Ludwig uses yarn to illustrate how bystanders who ignore bullies weave a ?web of bullying? during her workshop on the topic at Helman Elementary School in Ashland Tuesday. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven