I was a passionate reader growing up. Summer memories for me include reading, either in our basement trying to avoid the heat upstairs, or at the cottage, sitting lakeside with a book, or inside on a rainy day.
So having children that don't devour books with the same passion was something that caught me off guard. How could they not love to read like I do?
Then along came Harry Potter. My oldest daughter could not read those books fast enough. She consumed it like it was food and she hadn't eaten in days. My youngest has the same fever right now — she's on book three and there's no stopping her.
But even Harry and Hermione didn't grip my then 10-year-old daughter Sophie like the book Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, did. It's about Auggie Pullman, a boy who has been home-schooled because he has a facial deformity that that is quite noticeable. He is now in Grade 5 and enters mainstream school for the first time. Something about Auggie and his courage and humour gripped her like no book has before — or has since, actually.
With the movie coming out this month, I was curious about how much the book had touched my middle child. I asked her — what was it about Wonder that she loved so much? She told me that it taught her three things about herself that she tries to apply in her own life:
- Treat everyone with respect and kindness, no matter how they look: everyone judged Auggie by his appearance, and not the person he was, and she could see how much that hurt him. In Auggie's first English class, the teacher tells the kids "when given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind."
- Be brave, even if you are hurting: Auggie lacks confidence because of his looks, but with the help of his family, teachers and friends, he learns that when he stands up for himself, it makes him feel better.
- When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind: Auggie's English teacher, Mr. Browne, shares a precept (words to live by, or as he described, rules about really important things) with his class each month, and this is what he talks to them about in Auggie's first class.
Sophie has re-read Wonder several times over the last few years. If she's feeling bored, or when she needs a good book to lighten her spirits, she turns back to it.
Sophie is not the only person this book has touched. There are classroom programs that teachers can adapt and become "certified kind," and a #ChooseKind movement that fights bullying has sprung up across America.
Roma Boots, a boot manufacturer based in Dallas that operates on a giving back model, designed a special "Wonder" boot to celebrate the movie. For every pair of Wonder boots sold, a brand-new pair of rain boots are donated to a child in need in the developing world.
With all the good the book has inspired, I'm glad it's found another fan in my Sophie. When I see Wonder on Sophie's nightstand, I know she's in need of a little boost of kindness, and I am grateful she's got the book to do this for her.
Marie Cook is an avid reader and consumer of content. She works in Public Relations for World Vision Canada.