When I first read Wonder by R.J. Palacio, I had no idea how popular it would become. Frankly, I was distracted by my disappointment that it hadn’t been published in time to include in my article about books that explore physical differences. I blogged about for my employer twice (naming it a “promising bloom” here and mentioning the multiple narrator device here), and it’s come up this blog at least once that I remember.
Since then it has become a bit of a phenomenon. There was award buzz, a hashtag, and a whole movement surrounding this book. And it’s moving beyond kids: in the UK, there is an adult/all ages version of the book on shelves. I’m happy whenever you get adults to consider young people’s point of view by getting them to read children’s books, but this book in particular, I’d like to push into the hands of the general public. It is an opportunity to see out so many difference eyes, to see why people make the choices they do, and what the consequences of those choices might be. The best way to get people to make kind choices is to share stories like this one.
If I haven’t convinced you to read it yet, perhaps the book’s trailer will do so:
Kindness is an all ages choice, and this book spans a wide range of ages, as I mentioned. But for those with preschoolers or primary graders looking to explore kindness and empathy, try one of these:
- Fairy Goes A-Marketing - this is a picture book version of a poem about a fairy who sets her caged animals free or gives away she things to help others.
- Say Hello - Explores the feeling of being left out and encourages kids to include everyone.
- Jamaica’s Blue Marker - Jamaica doesn’t want to share her markers with Russell until she learns to look at why he acts so mean at school.
- Each Kindness - A new girl starts at Chloe’s school, but she won’t play with her. It is only after the new girl has moved again that Chloe realizes she could have been kinder to Maya.
- A Home for Bird – A little frog goes to great lengths to help a new friend find a home.
These books are great for starting discussions, but in all honesty, any story will do. In the words of Pulitzer Prize winning author Jane Smiley:
“Reading fiction is and always was practice in empathy — learning to see the world through often quite alien perspectives, learning to understand how other people’s points of view reflect their experiences.”
Wonder stands out because it is the story of someone who is very different and it explores the choices we make when faced with difference, but I believe that fiction can create a kinder world if we let it.
Please, choose kind.
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