Award Winning Children's Book Chosen for Gang Prevention Program

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The award winning children's book A Bundle of Sticks by Pat Mauser McCord has been selected by a Tucson gang prevention program as the cornerstone of their efforts to keep children out of gangs through a program that combines martial arts training with reading, homework help and field trips.

The award winning children's book A Bundle of Sticks by Pat Mauser McCord has been selected by a Tucson gang prevention program as the cornerstone of their efforts to keep children out of gangs through a program that combines martial arts training with reading, homework help and field trips.

Christopher Valdez, who holds a 7th degree black belt in the martial art of Kajukenbo, runs the program out of his Old School Gym in Tucson, Arizona. Operating on grants and donations, the former police officer and professional boxer emphasizes the peaceful aspects of the martial arts and A Bundle of Sticks will be the centerpiece of that strategy.

The book is the story of Ben Tyler, a victim who does not like to fight, but finds he sometimes must defend himself. Martial arts teaches him all he needs to know, plus a philosophy that allows him to walk away from fights.

"Every one of these kids knows what it feels like to be bullied, but they don't want to talk about it," says Valdez, who believes the book will reinforce the life lessons he is trying to teach. "Talking about a fictional character is a whole lot easier, even for older kids. No child likes to be lectured to, but tell them a story and the lessons come clear."

When a child enrolls in the program, they receive a full karate uniform, a white belt and a book that tells a story that many of them will recognize immediately. But unlike many children who have read the book in elementary school classrooms across country, these kids may be more likely to identify with the bully than with his victim.

"Even though I'd written a novel about martial arts, I had never considered how important it was to involve the bullies and potential bullies themselves," says author Pat Mauser McCord.

Valdez's program has the backing of the Tucson Police Department, who often send him boys or girls who are particularly vulnerable to gang recruitment, because of the neighborhoods where they live or because of family members returning from jail. "Chris has a gift for communicating with young people and helping them through conflict," says Marcia Roberts of the Tucson Police Department.

A Bundle of Sticks has been used in elementary school classrooms for over 20 years as part of anti-bullying and tolerance units. It is recognized by teachers as a classic of children's literature and has been the recipient of the The Mark Twain Award, The Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award and The Washington State Governor's Award.

http://www.patriciamccord.com

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