While getting bullied is something most of kids experience at one time or another, it’s not an easy thing to talk about with their family, teacher or peers.
Jacquelyn Kendal was a victim of bullying–both at school and online–from an early age. A sweet, well-mannered person, she was tormented relentlessly throughout primary and secondary school by her peers because of her learning disability. After seeing his sister come home day after day in tears, Jason Kendal decided to do his part to educate children on the impact of bullying in their formative years; thus My Friend Clyde was born.
Written by Jason, illustrated by his wife, Mariam, and inspired by Jacquelyn, My Friend Clyde is the first in a series of rhyming children’s picture books intended to educate young children (aged 5-10) about the importance of treating others with respect, regardless of their differences. The book follows Clyde, a young boy who struggles in school because of a learning disability. The other children in school are mean to Clyde, but they learn that he is worth getting to know.
The Kendal family hopes to educate children from an early age about the impact of bullying and let kids know that it is okay to talk about it. If even one kid is inspired by this book to think twice about bullying, that is a change we can get behind!
To learn more, we caught up with Jacquelyn.
SDTC: What was the hardest part about being bullied when you were a kid?
JK: I believed I was the only one who was bullied, so I didn’t want to talk about it, and I began to believe that I deserved to be bullied.
Going to school each day must have been incredibly stressful. How did you learn to cope/survive?
I was very fortunate that I had parents that supported me. Going to school each day was awful, so they allowed me to take days off every once in a while so I could get away from my bullies. The problem was if I went online, I would still get bullied.
How did My Friend Clyde begin? Was it your idea or your brother’s?
My brother wanted to defend me from my bullies but couldn’t do so because he’s much older and had no means. So, he was inspired by my life story to write a children’s book on bullying so that we could teach others not to bully.
How did My Friend Clyde help bring your family together?
My Friend Clyde is a family project. My brother wrote it, my sister-in law is the illustrator, my sister is doing the new graphics, and my mom does the social media.
What has happened since the book was released?
My Friend Clyde has travelled to events, given a portion of sales to many charities, and presented at school workshops to over 2,500 students. I won a community service award, became a speaker for The Learning Disabilities Association (York Region), presented to educators, and was featured on many news stories including CP24, Global Television, Rogers TV, and CTV. The book has also received amazing reviews, and I have met some incredible like-minded people.
What conversations have you had with children, or educators, that has really left an impact with you?
At one school I met a six-year-old boy who told the group in my workshop that he was being bullied because he was not from Canada and didn’t speak English clearly. The group of children all put their arms around him and I felt so proud to be part of this.
What is the most important message you want to teach children aged 5-10?
IT’S OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP IF SOMEONE IS MAKING YOU FEEL UPSET! You can always talk with someone you trust, such as parents, teachers or even your principal. You are not alone.
What is the most important message you want to teach parents and educators?
I want to stress to adults that bullying is emotionally devastating, with life-long effects on the child. We must not assume that bullying is a rite of passage; it should never happen.
What were your favourite books as a child?
Some of my favourite books as a child were the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
Anything else you want to share?
I have tried to take my difficult experience and turn it into a positive one by educating others on the effects of bullying. In particular, I want to teach children that just because someone is different, they can still be a good friend. I also speak to parents and educators because it is such an important message that must be heard.