By JOHN LE, WLOS
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (CIRCA via WLOS) — Sometimes we read to escape reality, but every page of a new children's book captures an experience that's all too real.
"Going to school can sometimes be tough. Sometimes kids are nice, and some kids are rough," reads the Rev. Brent La Prince Edwards.
Edwards wrote and illustrated "You Can't Bully Me Anymore," hoping to shed light on what can be a dark place for kids in western North Carolina and across the country.
"Bullying not only hurts physically, but mentally, emotionally and socially," he reads aloud. "Most bullying happens in school, but help is available. Now, let's tell the story!"
"So, what I did was I tried to take all of the things that are happening that we hear about in America, and even in our local communities, and tried to put them all inside some kind of a character," Edwards said.
As the pastor at St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church, Edwards has addressed this pressing issue before.
The church hosted a bullying forum to discuss the dilemma.
According to the website stop bullying.gov, 28 percent of children in grades 6-12 nationwide say they've been bullied, while 30 percent say they've bullied others.
Recently, a former parishioner's experience spurred Edwards to do even more.
"Her third-grade child got two broken hips by being bullied in elementary school," he said.
Edwards has spoken to Asheville City and Buncombe County schools about his vision to incorporate the book into their curriculums.
"It's a discussion-starter. And the goal is that it will be used in class and particularly by guidance counselors," Edwards said. "Because, I think if you can get them at that age, you're setting a foundation for them that bullying is not acceptable."
Crafting the story consumed him for months.
"This is the early stages of the book," Edwards said, flipping through sketches and story notes he wrote while working on the book. "I had an a-ha moment and decided to do my own illustrations with cartoon characters."
"Each one of these characters represent a type of bully," he said, drawing four kids.
"Rosa gets bullied because she's from another culture and another religion," he said, before sketching another troubled character, Nancy. "She gets cyber-bullied because she's pretty."
"Chad gets bullied because he has special needs, and Thomas gets bullied because he's overweight," he continued.
Some characters were based on kids Edwards knew. At times, some even reminded Edwards of himself.
"I was bullied as a child," Edwards revealed.
Growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, he recalled an incident when he was 9 years old.
"So it was almost like I was outnumbered. It was like you're either going to be in this gang with us, or we're going to beat you up," he said. "I didn't want to be in the gang, so they took me by both of my feet and dragged me down two flights of stairs."
Edwards drew from painful personal experience to draw his book.
"And so what this book attempts to deal with is the cause of bullying," Edwards said. "And, if I am bullied and if I am the offender, how do I recover from that? Where do I start? In the mind of a child."
His debut children's book is anything but child's play, and Edwards believes it's an extension of his calling.
"Pulling children in, in a language that they can understand," he said.
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