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Bismarck mom turns son’s experience being bullied into children’s book, teaching moment

Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 5:43 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Bullies are a reality at schools across the nation, even in Bismarck.

Often, bullies pick on people because they don’t understand other people.

One Bismarck mom says her son was bullied for his long hair.

There is good news here though.

Joelle Bearstail found a way to turn that bad experience into a teaching moment.

In fact, it was the inspiration for Bearstail’s first children’s book, “Bear’s Braid.”

This is the story of Ben and Bear, two young Native American boys struggling with bullies and ignorance.

Their story is based on author Joelle Bearstail’s son, Thomas, and his real-life experiences.

“He was being teased about being Indian, Native American, being called names, being told to cut his hair because he looks like a girl, kids asking why he has long hair,” Bearstail recalled.

Her son’s experiences were all the inspiration Bearstail needed to write her first children’s book.

“I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book but I never knew about what,” she said.

Her book is about more than just fulfilling a life-long dream.

“I’m really hoping that it can empower and educate, and our kids can relate to it.”

She hopes it will teach others about her culture

“I do hope that parents will read this, teachers can read this and it will give them a better understanding,” Bearstail explained.

And about the significance of long hair.

“Our ancestors had long hair. It’s what keeps us close to Earth. We do it to kind of honor our elders and our ancestors,” she said.

These pages are her favorite part of the book.

“It’s one of the special parts,” Bearstail said.

Bearstail put out a call on social media asking boys with long hair to send a photo. Her publisher put together a collage of those pictures and included it in the book.

“It’s really important they see themselves represented,” Bearstail explained.

She hopes the story of “Bear’s Braids” might give other young Native American boys the confidence and courage to keep their hair long and help others understand their culture.

“Bear’s Braid” will be officially released on Tuesday, but you can preorder now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Mascot books.

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