by R.J. Palacio
Read for "Individualism" theme
Hands down, Wonder is one of the best 5 novels for teachers. Whether it is used as an in-class reading assignment or merely a resource tool for teachers, Wonder provides so many different things for educators and readers alike. To preface my discussion of this book, here is an excellent book talk from YouTube to summarize the plot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPJ3TXEj-To
So now that we know the premise of the novel, lets dig into it! Now, a big thing about this book is the genetic disorder Auggie is born with, as it serves as the vehicle for the morals and lessons learned in the story. From discussions with people who recommended that I read the book, they were able to verbally explain to me what Auggie's disorder was. But upon reading the book, I soon realized that I needed to do some more research. Auggie was born with a cranio-facial disorder called Treacher Collins syndrome, which is a facial disorder characterized by underdeveloped facial features like cheekbones. (More specific information about Treacher Collins can be found here). This disorder is what physically separates Auggie from the rest of the kids, as his parents want to shelter him from possible bullying at school. So in a way, this also serves as a social separation too.
Upon Auggie's arrival at public school, he feels welcomed by a few students who showed him around the school on his first day. However, he quickly becomes the victim of a terrible bully named Julian, who uses Auggie's deformity as an excuse to torment and social isolate Auggie. Bullying has become one of the biggest problems in schools, particularly with middle school age students like Auggie. So I believe that it is extremely important for educators to be proactive about preventing bullying. In an article called "Teaching Wonder," Tracy Ludwig discusses how to incorporate lessons about bullying with the teaching of Wonder in an elementary or middle school classroom. If given the opportunity, I would love to be able to include lessons like these into my classroom so as to provide students with a literary piece to understand as well as a "real world" issue they can learn from. The author of Wonder, R.J. Palacio has become an advocate on the matter of bullying in schools and has initiated the Choose Kind campaign. In this video, Palacio discusses the campaign and her intent for initiating this social call-to-arms for young people.
The Choose Kindness campaign has prompted teachers, students, and readers all around the country to act against bullying in order to eradicate it from schools. The effect of this movement and its ever-potent message has even reached large-scale voice like the Disney Channel. The Disney Channel has used casts from some of its most popular shows, like Austin & Ally, to promote the choose kindness campaign and to air anti-bullying PSAs so that young viewers may learn both in school and out of school about the importance of kindness.
In a recent interview with the Telegraph, R.J. Palacio supports her campaign and the effect it is having on the nation and the world by saying that "any act of kindness is an act of almost unadulterated courage." I agree with Palacio and hope to encourage and instill this very principle with my future classroom. One extraordinary way to get students thinking about the impact of kindness is to incorporate the Random Acts of Kindness initiative. This initiative is not solely for students, but rathe is aimed at people of all ages, genders, races, etc. The RAK initiative is a way for people to take a few moments out of their day and use that time in service of others. These simple acts can change a person's day or possibly their life. By adapting this for the classroom, students will actively pursue kindness in their everyday lives, and hopefully, bullying will be eradicated from their lives in turn.