As increased bullying and suicide rates have become undoubtedly connected over the last decade, one Madison resident had the issue placed on her heart and decided to do something to change it.
Tina Lakey and her husband have lived in Madison for more than 20 years and have three children. She worked as the Mississippi district director of CenterPoint Energy for 37 years before retiring in 2017. She has a passion for volunteering and writing, but Lakey said children are her heart. So when God laid this rising problem on her heart, Lakey sat down and wrote a children’s book.
“It broke my heart when bullying became such a huge thing and caused suicides and school shootings,” Lakey said. “I wrote that book and it took me five years before it was published, but it was always in God’s time.”
She saw statistics that showed 280,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month and 160 students miss school each day for fear of being bullied. She thought about what she could do to change those numbers and wrote “Just Kidding.” It is the story of a little girl who was bullied by her brother and decided she was going to follow his example instead of continuing to be picked on. She starts picking on another girl at school, but it turns out she chose the wrong girl to bully.
“I wanted it to be a positive story about how you can change whether you are the bully, being bullied or even those who stand by and watch,” Lakey said. “There can be a positive outcome if we just do the right thing.”
She wants the story to let children know the importance of self-value and worth for themselves and others. For Lakey, the goal is to help just even one child, and it will make the book a success for her after seeing all the children that were hurting each other with words or physically. She started doing readings for small groups of children once the pandemic allowed her to do so, and they created open conversations with students about the problem.
“I read the book and talk to the children about bullying and what it means to them,” Lakey said. “Some of them don’t even realize they’re bullying. They just do it.”
Lakey held her most recent reading on Oct. 13 at Northpark Mall in the new Family Lounge outfitted with a little library and play area. The mall is giving out 10 copies of her book to the first 10 people who bring in a book to put in the Family Lounge Library. She said only a few children came to the reading as it was a Wednesday night when most churches host their youth programs, however it was still a success.
“I count it a success because I read my book and it was recorded live so with children and adults watching it, it covered more than we ever could have fit into that room,” Lakey said. “I’ve learned to rely on God’s plan, not mine.”
She said the children really open up and talk during those readings, and Lakey takes the opportunity to show them they aren’t alone and have a support system around them.
“If you are the one being bullied, you just feel like you’re all by yourself and these kids are committing suicide over bullying,” Lakey said. “If I can have these meetings and tell them to look around and see this is their sup-
port, they don’t feel like they’re so alone.”
Lakey said this is her sole goal in writing and sharing the book: to impact the lives of children and make them feel valued and worthy.
The book is available for purchase at bookstores and Amazon, as well as in ebook format.