HINSDALE – Four years ago, then 6-year-old LaNiyah Bailey said she came home from school in tears because of the mean-spirited comments students in her class would say to her.
As a therapeutic practice, LaNiyah’s mom, LaToya White, told her to write down what happened and why it made her so upset.
In a whirlwind of events, LaNiyah story, “Not Fat Because I Wanna Be,” was then turned into a book, which she also followed up with a bullying-themed activity book for kids called “Stand Up: Bully Busters Coming to Town.”
“Basically the message is to try to stand up [to bullying], even though it’s hard,” LaNiyah said. “I’m trying to get kids and tell them that bullying is not cool and it’s something people should not tolerate.”
“Not Fat Because I Wanna Be” tells the story of Jessica, a young girl who is bullied because of her weight, which is caused by a medical issue. Jessica gains weight, even though she is healthy and active, yet has to endure the painful experiences that come from bullying by her classmates. Jessica learns how to stand up for herself during the course of the story, which is modeled on LaNiyah’s real life experiences.
Since the release of the book, LaNiyah has been profiled on National Public Radio, CNN, the Huffington Post and other media outlets across the world.
The Hinsdale resident said she hopes her book will show other children who are being bullied that they’re not alone.
“They’re not the only ones getting bullied and it doesn’t just hurt them,” LaNiyah said.
LaNiyah, now a fourth-grade student at Madison Elementary School in Hinsdale, said there are many reasons why kids start bullying their peers, including jealousy or that the bully was once bullied themselves and are acting out because of it.
“I just want to tell them that it’s OK and they can stand up for themselves,” LaNiyah said. “But don’t take it so far that you become the bully.”
The now 10-year-old author was recently honored for her efforts to shine a light on bullying and for telling her own story. LaNiyah won a Kids Rock Award for Best Author during an Oct. 3. ceremony hosted by WGCI radio personality Demi Lobo.
The event was hosted to recognize kids who’ve made a positive difference or change in their communities through art, athletics and other categories.
At first, LaNiyah was nervous about winning the award, she said. But peer support and cheers from her family helped a lot.
Along with writing two books, LaNiyah also has plans to create an anti-bullying app, and she hasn’t stopped there. LaNiyah and her mom have been traveling to schools to share her anti-bullying message and to talk with students about the hurt bullying can cause.
For students being bullied now, LaNiyah said she’d give them two pieces of advice: Don’t show that it hurts your feelings and tell a trusted adult about what happened.
“Doing one thing can change and inspire so many people,” LaNiyah said. “I never knew at 6 years old that I could inspire so many people.”