The Mariners and Comcast NBCUniversal have sponsored a children’s book in collaboration with internet safety and anti-bullying experts that features starting pitcher Felix Hernandez and the Mariner Moose mascot to promote supportive behavior among children when cyberbullying takes place.
“Kids today are more connected than ever. This book is a way to reach kids, in a fun and engaging way, to help ensure that they have a safe space online, and know what to do if they encounter trouble,” said Joe Chard, Seattle Mariners Vice President of Corporate Business and Community Relations.
The book “Rise with King Felix #Mooselove” gives parents and children tools to respond in a positive way if they encounter bullying online,” said Amy Lynch, Regional Vice President of Comcast in Washington. “The book’s storyline promotes being an “upstander” versus a bystander in bullying situations. Both we and the Mariners know that children today can be badly affected by bullying. We hope the tools and examples in this book can help children create positive outcomes.”
”The “Rise with King Felix #Mooselove” children’s books will be distributed for free at a stadium-wide give away at Safeco Field on Sunday, July 23, to youth 14 and younger.
Author Jarrett Mentink, Ph.D, an assistant professor of Health and Human Performance at Seattle Pacific University, wrote the book in verse for an elementary school audience. The Mariner Moose finds himself humiliated by an old and embarrassing picture posted by a fictional mascot bully who hijacks the MarinersVision screen during a game. The Mariners Moose thus finds himself in a situation that some studies say affects one out of every three school-aged children in the United States.
But in the book, the Moose has some powerful allies – Felix Hernandez, his Seattle Mariners teammates and a ballpark full of fans – who are willing to stand up to the cyberbully and defend their friend.
The book was commissioned by Comcast as part of its Internet Essentials program that provides Internet access to low-income families with children. Recent research has identified online bullying as the number one Internet safety issue for today’s connected children. About 9 percent of kids today say they’ve been the victim of cyberbullying, everything from mean text messages to sharing rumors, gossip or embarrassing photos or videos by text, chat or on social media. Resulting problems can include sleep loss, anxiety and depression. Kids who are targeted by bullying behavior may be more likely to skip school, get poor grades and have lower self-esteem.
In the book, The King’s Court, Felix’s personal cheering section, spells out a message of support: “No haters in Safeco,” and Felix says that people who make fun of others aren’t cool, and declares “My house of Safeco is a bully-free zone!” The hashtag they use is #MooseLove.
Mentink has written nine children’s books on a variety of topics, eight of them featuring professional athletes. The story is illustrated by Mentink’s frequent collaborator, artist Patrick Carlson.
“Anytime you can take an athlete that kids look up to and respect, and share that positive message via that athlete, I think it’s going to reach kids that otherwise might not be reached,” said Mentink.
One of the advisors in development of the book and its approach is Anne Collier, Executive Director of The Net Safety Collaborative, and an advisor to Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. Collier said the majority of kids don’t participate in bullying behaviors and can be a powerful force to reduce them if empowered to stand up for their peers. “They can do that publicly, the way The King’s Court does in the book, or they can do it quietly, behind the scenes. Just reach out to the person and say, ‘Tell me what’s going on’ or ‘I’m with you.’ Kids who have been bullied say that what helps more than anything is just to be heard,” said Collier.
In 2014, Felix and Seattle musician Macklemore teamed up for #ChangeTheGame, a public service campaign and curriculum for middle schoolers with an anti-bullying theme that asked students to “be kind, stay positive, and support each other.”
The illustration above is from the cover of the book; here’s the back cover: