A mother asks: "I have an eight year old daughter that hates school. She is teased and picked on. She is a great reader, and is bright, engaged, and adored at home, but is already upset about the return to school this fall. What should I do?"
First, take her seriously. Tell her you understand and that you will do everything you can to fix it, but let her know she has to take responsibilty for her own survival as well.
Second, make an appointment with the principal of her school soon, before school starts, and let him or her know what is going on. My guess is that there is specific child that is doing the bullying, so request that they not, if possible, be in the same class. Bullying or harassment is real and wrong and no child should have to suffer it. You really need to hold the line on this and demand accountability from school officials. You are are trusting them to care for your child for eight hours a day and they better do it.
Third, there is a difference between bullying and not being happy. Once the school issue is dealt with, do what you can to give your daughter the confidence to deal with people she doesn't like, or situations that make her uncomfortable. Act out the scenes that let her practice what Eleanor Roosevelt meant when she said that no one can make you feel bad without your permission. Then help her find a peer group, or an activity she enjoys. Often that is a simple as joining a sports team, youth group, choir, or a dance or karate club. Some children need a pet to take care of or an instrument to play. Find out what she likes and encourage her to pursue it. There is nothing like working hard at something you love and being successful at it to build confidence, and it is a good way to meet like minded children and families to befriend.
I would also volunteer at school once a week to see for yourself what's going on. And while yes, sometimes life is unfair, and yes, children need to fight their own battles, everyday should not be a struggle. If real bullying or crippling misery continues, and you don't get any help from school officials, consider alternatives like changing schools, classrooms, or home schooling, if you are able. Childhood is brief, and school should not be torture.