Magic Tree House
Junie B. Jones
When the staff at Random House Children’s Books began reading Wonder shortly after it was presented to us by its editor, Erin Clarke, we all quickly came to the conclusion that we had something special on our hands. It’s incredibly rare to find a story that inspires so many people, all from different backgrounds, to take a deeper look at themselves and their actions. It began a conversation that spread nation-wide—teachers brought the book into classrooms, classroom reads turned into school-wide reads, and pretty soon entire school districts were adopting the book as required reading.
Raquel (the “R” in R.J.) hits the nail on the head with the quote above. Empathy is difficult to teach, and perhaps one of the reasons why Wonder and other titles have been so successful in inspiring kids and adults alike is that the book doesn’t preach a set of values to readers. Auggie, and the family and friends who chime in, show you the experience of being outside the “norm,” and the way words can be used—intentionally or unintentionally—as weapons. You feel for him when he overhears his friend, Jack, say something cruel, when kids stare at him, when some of his classmates develop a game around not touching him. At one point or another, everyone experiences the sting of being bullied, and everyone is faced with the choice of joining in or rising above hurtful behavior toward others. The Choose Kind pledge campaign was directly inspired by Auggie’s teacher, Mr. Browne, who chose this as his September precept: When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.
Wonder is a great choice for kids in middle school to start a conversation in your classrooms and libraries about bullying. We have an educator guide available (with Common Core Standards tie-ins) to help get things started. Have they already read Wonder, or looking for another perspective? Give Twerp, told from an accused bully’s point of view, a try.
For younger students, may we recommend the absolutely heartwrenching title The Invisible Boy
Looking for more ways to develop a lesson plan around bullying, including activities and vocabulary? Be sure to download our full Bullying Discussion Guide!
To learn more about the origin and mission of National Bullying Prevention Month, please visit PACER’s site.