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Birches to Introduce "Rainbow Rabbit" to Students

Thanks to funding supplied through the Washington Township Education Foundation, Birches Elementary School students in grades 1-5 will be the recipient of books and plush rabbits that tell the story of “Rainbow Rabbit.” The 40-year-old book was created by Arthur Vallee, a former animator with the Walt Disney Company in the 1940’s, and is being introduced by Vallee’s daughter, Shirley, and his grandson, Joe Vallee, as an anti-bullying program in schools in New Jersey. Student assistance counselor Mike Petticrew is responsible for bringing the Rainbow Rabbit message of acceptance and tolerance and the need to celebrate diversity to the school as a kick-off its Great Kindness Challenge Week, beginning April 3rd.

The story tells of a rabbit whose colorful coat makes him unlike others in his village, leaving him feeling isolated. Thanks to the kindness of the queen, the rabbit realizes that his unique qualities are what make him special and cause him to be optimistic about a future as bright and colorful as he is.

The Rainbow Rabbit program includes lessons that carry themes from the story that align with New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, a 2011 policy to combat bullying in public schools statewide.

“I think the Rainbow Rabbit program is the perfect match for what we are trying to do within Birches and the school district,” Petticrew said. “We’re trying to respect our differences and to not leave people out, to be kind, to reach out to everyone and not exclude anyone. I think that’s what the Rainbow Rabbit story is all about. The exercises create opportunities for the kids to come together, put the books down, circle up and talk about some issues other than academic issues. All of this contributes to a more positive learning environment.

“Kids need to feel safe in the classroom before they can begin to learn,” Petticrew said. “Not every kid comes to school happy. Some kids come to school anxious and upset. We don’t know where they came from or what happened. But we do know that they are going to be treated with kindness when they come here. This is a safe place for them. The Rainbow Rabbit program helps us to spread this message. It gives our kids a common language and helps us to allow kindness to be interwoven into our school culture.”