Harry Pacheco’s daughter was overcome with excitement for her first day of kindergarten, so when she came home after school filled with fear at the thought of returning, he was heartbroken.
“We were brushing our teeth later that night and she said, ‘If I have to go back, can I leave my glasses at home?’” Pacheco said. “It was horrifying to me.”
Bullied for the new glasses she had to wear, Pacheco’s daughter was facing a problem that he realized wasn’t uncommon. He wanted to help, and after a trip to a book store realized that many books teaching kids not to bully were geared toward older children. Most dealt with issues like cyber bullying and relationships, rather than problems younger children might have.
“When I saw my daughter not wanting to return to school, I thought, ‘How many other kids go through this?’” Pacheco said. “I didn’t see a lot of books on bullying that dealt with kindergarten through sixth grade, so I decided to write a book.”
Three books later, the Manteca author is now an accomplished storyteller that has spread the importance of acceptance to children throughout the area.
Inspired by his daughter, Pacheco’s first book was published in 2016. “Gladys Glasses” tells the story of a young elephant that’s teased for wearing glasses, and in 2017 Pacheco released another book with a positive message, “Stanley No Stripes,” which follows a tiger who is different because he has no stripes.
Soon, Pacheco will release a third book about a monkey in a wheelchair titled “Willie’s Wheelchair.” In total, he plans to release five books in the series.
While each story features the same message of accepting those who are different, all of the characters have unique challenges because the same goes for every child, Pacheco said.
“It’s teaching these kids the importance of acceptance no matter what their race, culture, how their parents are or even our own personal quirks,” Pacheco said. “I think that we can change the minds of these kids that are growing up in this age of social media.”
By spreading his anti-bullying message to children when they are younger, Pacheco hopes to stop bullying in its tracks before children become older. The anonymity of the internet and challenges that bullied children face as teens can be a dangerous mix, he said.
“It breaks my heart to see how many teens die in this country from suicides…it’s overlooked,” he said. “I try and talk to these children about bullying right now because their minds are like sponges. They might remember me down the line and it could help.”
Pacheco travels to local schools, reading his books to assemblies of students and spreading messages of positivity in hopes that no one will have to go through the same experience as his daughter.
One lesson that Pacheco teaches in his assemblies, he said, is the impact that students’ words can have on one another. To demonstrate, he has the school’s principal say mean things to him and with every word, he rips a piece of paper. At the end, he tapes it back together again.
“It looks fixed, but if they look closer they can see the tears,” Pacheco said. “I tell them that even if they call each other names but then apologize, what they said is still there no matter if they forgive you or not. So, we have to be mindful of what we say.”
Pacheco’s books have received an overwhelmingly positive response from parents and children alike and are available for sale on Amazon.com and on his website,harryepacheco.com
“I’m all about teaching acceptance – that’s what my books are about,” Pacheco said. “No matter your race, culture, appearance or religion, it’s about acceptance.”