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Sunday, September 21, 2014
Teaching kids to stand up
9E principal writes book about bullying
Courtesy Oceanside Schools
Dr. Karen Siris, right, spoke about her book with students in Mrs. Clare Moran’s third grade class, along with co-author Lisa Roth, top right, and illustrator Marsha Levitin, top left.

Dr. Karen Siris, the principal of Boardman Elementary School in Oceanside, has long been a champion of trying to stop bullying in schools. She created anti-bullying programs in Oceanside and serves on the taskforce for the state’s Dignity for All Students Act, a new anti-bullying law.

So it makes sense that Siris would co-author a book about students working together to stand up to bullies.

Siris co-wrote “Stand Up!” with Boardman parent Lisa Roth, an allergist with an office in Lynbrook. Roth had previous experience publishing a children’s book. When her son was in kindergarten, it was suggested that parents not bring in cupcakes and sweets to celebrate their child’s birthday, but do something special.

“And I took that very seriously as a parent,” said Roth. “I said, I’m not going to bring in sweets. What can I do that’s meaningful and will add value to my son and the class. And I figured, let me read a book. Then I said no, I’m going to write one.”

Roth read her book, “The Magical Journey,” on her son’s fifth birthday, and she said the teachers cried. “It’s really a dialogue from a parent to a child [to teach them about] different values and morals and ethics,” said Roth.

Siris had met Roth through the school, and turned to her when the idea came to write a book. Roth’s friend Marsha Levitin, an artist, illustrated her first book and the two asked her to illustrate “Stand Up!” as well.

“Lisa gave me quite a challenge when she said, ‘Why don’t we do it from the knees down?’” Levitin said.

The book is from the perspective of a nameless student who sees a bully, Alex, picking on a girl, Jamie. The narrator decides to get a group of students who care about people together to help Jaime. Instead of one student standing up to Alex, the group does. They eat lunch with Jamie and befriend her, coming to her aid when Alex comes to make fun of her. The group standing up to him makes Alex realize that being a bully is wrong.

Siris and Roth finished writing the book last summer. The time since then was taken up by Levitin: researching for her illustrations and then creating them all. Each was a 13-inch by 13-inch pastel drawing, and she created 24 unique ones for the book.

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