Have you ever read a book and known that you will never be the same person you were before you started it? That the words on the pages will stick with you long after the back cover is closed for the final time? When you read aloud a book like this with your students, do you stop to reflect with them? As I mentioned in the previous post, a great question to ask our students is “How will you look at the world differently or live your life differently as a result of reading this book?”
I just finished reading two books that have this effect—one is a novel appropriate for middle schoolers 5th grade and up and the other is a picture book that is appropriate for young children through adult.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a book that many 5th grade teachers in my county are reading aloud or have recently read aloud as part of a reading workshop unit on character. I have heard so much about it that I had to read it for myself. I wouldn’t recommend it for grades younger than 5th, but if you teach a younger grade, I encourage you to read it just for yourself. It is that good. Wonder is a beautifully written, well-developed novel about ten-year-old August, a boy born with severe facial deformities. He enters school for the first time as a 5th grade middle schooler. Like all middle schoolers, fitting in is a top priority. But when you stand out as much as August, fitting in seems nearly impossible. Told from multiple points of view, this book confronts the reader with many life issues including bullying, compassion, and empathy for those who are different from ourselves. Nicholas Sparks must have felt the same way I did after reading this book, as evidenced by his quote: “Wonder touches the heart in the most life-affirming, unexpected ways, delivering in August Pullman a character whom readers will remember forever. Do yourself a favor and read this book – your life will be better for it.“
My good friend Kristen Remenar recently introduced this book to me. My Heart Will Not Sit Down is one of those stories that truly tugs at your heartstrings and lingers with you long after you have finished it. Set in Africa’s Cameroon during America’s Great Depression, this book tells the story of a young girl who inspired her poor village to collect money to send to the hungry children in New York City. The money only amounted to $3.77 but for the villagers, this would have been a fortune. The best part of this book? It is based on a true story. You can’t read this book without being touched and wondering, “how can I make a difference in my corner of the world?” I encourage you to share this book with your students and have them answer this question for themselves.