Have you heard of it? Better yet, have you read it? Do you know the wonder that is Wonder by R.J. Palacio?
Wonder is one of 2012's hottest novels by first-time author R.J. Palacio. Teachers, students, librarians, and kid's lit lovers alike are singing the praises of this WONDERful book. Don't believe me? Try following some of the many hashtags that have popped up all over Twitter (# WonderofWONDER, #WONDERschools, to name a few) and you will find hundreds of people chatting about this powerful book.
I first read Wonder as an Advanced Reader's Copy that I obtained form NetGalley. I was hooked. I read it in two days, barely able to pull myself away from the computer screen on which I was reading it. As soon as I read the last sentence on the last page, I knew that this book HAD to be shared with as many children as I could reach. It was the last novel I read to both of my reading and language arts classes last year. It was the perfect way to end the year before I sent them out into the world beyond elementary school. We made wonderful memories as we discussed the book using a mixture of the questions my students came up with, some of my own, and the ones provided on R.J. Palacio's website. We wrote about it. We cried over it. We loved it.
(**Spoiler Alert** Below is the "flipchart" I used with my students. Some of the questions reveal key events in the story and may spoil it for you if you haven't read it yet...which you need to!)Wonder Questions
This year, I decided to read Wonder with my kids at the beginning of the year. My hope was that it would help build up our classroom community. I decided that by reading it at the beginning of the year, the impact would not only carry into their lives outside of school, but inside as well. Typically I allow my students to vote for their read aloud, but this year I decided this one was too important to potentially pass up.
Every day my students eagerly enter the classroom after specials, grab their response journals, and form a circle on the carpet. I decided to sit with my students on the floor, not above them on my "teacher chair," this year. I can see them, hear them, and look at what they are writing/sketching in their notebooks. We reserved the back half of the students' journals for notes. After previewing Wonder (using the front and back covers, inside flap, and first chapter), the kids thought about what they wanted to focus on as we read. Some chose how the song quotes connected to each character's part, others were interested in tracking how August (the main character) dealt with being in school for the first time. The students then designed their own note-taking sheets, which they use and refer to when writing letters to me about our read aloud. I have been so amazed at my students' honesty and empathy as I read their entries.
I love sharing this book with my students. It brings us together as a community and helps them understand the effect their actions, both good and bad, can have on others. They see connections between the characters we are reading about, and characters in their independent reading. Wonder is a great tool for teaching empathy, but it is also great literature. I use it to model skills and strategies I want my students to use in their own reading and writing. I am so grateful to R.j. Palacio for giving me such an invaluable resource to use in my classroom. I know Auggie will stay with all of us forever.