I teach gifted in a public school district. In my two schools, I am the only gifted teacher, but in my district, I am one of 6 elementary GT teachers. Yesterday, we met unofficially. We decided to start a once a month book club for reading middle grade literature. We decided that we needed to know more about what was new and what better way to learn about new kitlit than to read and discuss it. A little wine and some snacks, too.
This first month we decided to read Wonder. A few of us had read it and loved it. Wonder is one of those important books. If you haven’t read it, you must. For me, the book has taken on new meaning through two children.
One is my nephew, Jack. Jack’s school district in Round Rock, TX. did a “One Community: One Book” project. Everyone in the community was encouraged to read Wonder. Jack is in third grade, and he wrote a letter to the author to be able to attend an event where she spoke. He told me later all about it. R.J. Palacio told the story of how she came to write Wonder. She was in an ice cream shop with her children, and a little girl with a facial deformity came in. Ms. Palacio was not happy with her reaction. She mulled it over and over. That drove her to create August.
When we read Wonder in my classroom, I did not even consider my student Brooklyn. I was reading it for all of the other reasons; it’s a great book and teaches so much about how to choose kindness in this world full of intolerance. I thought it was important to teach this point, but I didn’t even think about how Brooklyn lives like Via, Auggie’s sister, every day. Her brother and her mother are disabled. She knows the looks people give, the head turns, the feeling of being different. But Brooklyn doesn’t feel different at all. Her life is totally normal to her. She expressed this beautifully in her letter to R.J. Palacio for the Letters about Literature contest.
Like Via, I get very angry when I see someone staring at us like they paid us to put on a show. They look my family up and down, but when their eyes get down, they stay down, staring at my family’s legs. “They aren’t aliens! They are just like me and you, but their legs don’t work exactly the same.” I say this every time, but only in my head. I’ve tried to see what they see, but I just can’t see it.
Momma always told me that God gave me to her and the family for a special reason. Your book helped me to realize being different isn’t always bad. Usually, I feel like no one understands what it is like living with my family. No one understands how normal it can be. Your book changed that. You understood, and I want to tell you thank you.
Next month we have selected to read A Snicker of Magic. I haven’t read it yet, but have seen lots of good reviews. Looking forward to reading and sharing with my colleagues who love a good kidlit book, just like me.