'Why do I have to be the nice one?'

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Just say no to bullying. That's the theme of "The Brand New Kid" - a

children's book penned by TV anchorwoman Katie Couric and arriving on bookstore shelves this month, even as a number of US public schools launch new curricula spelling out the same message.

The book and the school programs were spurred by the same troubling events. Ms. Couric - lead anchor for NBC's Today Show - says that in covering Columbine and other school shootings for the network, she became concerned by the notion that several of the shooters may have been at least in part reacting to bullying by their peers.

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That's why she spun a children's tale - in rhyme - about a new kid who has trouble fitting in at school. ("The other kids laughed, gee this new boy was weird/Too different and strange to fit in they all feared.") An act of kindness by a girl named Ellie (after Couric's older daughter) finally eases his plight.

Couric says she wanted her own daughters and other children to understand how much even the smallest of friendly gestures can mean. In addition to Columbine, Couric says she was also impelled by memories of her sister being cruelly teased by a group of girls in junior high.

But changing children's attitudes toward bullying is not necessarily easy, a point driven home to Couric by her daughter Ellie's reaction to her book and the fact that the character bearing her name is the one who eventually befriends the new kid. "Why," she asked her mother, "do I have to be the nice one?"

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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