Book of the Week-We Are All Wonders

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One of the most important things I can teach my daughter is the importance of being a kind, empathic and understanding child.  Living in New York City, children are exposed to a variety of people at a very young age.  I’m lucky enough that my daughter doesn’t seem to notice people being different.  Or she notices their differences but doesn’t think they matter.  The easiest way for children to learn about being kind and empathic is by seeing it from other people in their lives, especially their grown-ups.  However, there are many children who need to help understanding that not everyone looks the same and some are born with issues that make them very different than them.  For example, kids may not be able to speak or walk without a walker or may need a wheelchair in order to get around.  While it is normal for kids to be curious, we have to teach them that staring at a child for too long or asking them too many questions may make the other kids feel sad.

We Are All Wonders. by R.J. Palacio is a picture book based on her book Wonder.  I was so moved by that book when I read it a couple of years ago that I now recommend it to anyone who works with kids and have gifted it to more people than I can recall.  We Are All Wonders features Auggie Pullman, the main character of Wonder.  The main theme of the book is the importance of being kind, empathetic and understanding.  Auggie was born with facial differences and because of that, he is different than other kids his age.  The kids don’t invite him to play and call him names because of the way he looks.  What those kids don’t understand is that even though he may look different than him, he is very much like them.  He likes to play with the same kinds of toys and do the same kinds of activities.  Auggie is sad that nobody wants to play with him so when he is feeling extra lonely, he puts on his space helmet and he and his dog Daisy escape to Pluto where they play with old friends.  As they are coming back to Earth, Auggie sees just how big it is and how it should be big enough for all kinds of people.  This is something we all need to be reminded of at times and definitely something children need to learn from a very young age. 

Here are some questions you can ask your children and activities you can do to go along with We Are All Wonders.
~one of my favorite quotes from We Are All Wonders is “I can’t change the way I look.  People just need to change the way they see.”  Using this quote, you can brainstorm with the kids about how they would describe Auggie without focusing on the way he looks.  For older children, you could put everyone’s name in a bag and have them pick a name out.  They must then think about something wonderful about that person that has nothing to do with they way they look.  Provide examples such as “you have a really great singing voice” or “you know how to make the coolest MagnaTile structures” or “you are a really great drawer”. 

~an important conversation to have while reading this book is about how everyone is different.  We may have things in common with our friends and family, but there are things that make us each unique and extraordinary.  Go around the class and ask each child to think about something that makes them different than their peers.  If they can’t come up with something, help them come up with something that you notice makes them unique and special.

~something I have introduced to my own daughter is the idea of performing random acts of kindness.  A random act of kindness is when someone unexpectedly does something kind for someone that brightens their day.  Brainstorm with your child or the class about different kinds of things that they can do for people in their lives.

~one thing that can be done in either a classroom or home setting is to make a Kindness Jar.  Every time a child is caught doing something kind for someone else, you put some kind of token in that jar.  Once the jar is full, the class earns a party or you and your child can do something special.  I sometimes suggest that parents actually write down what that act of kindness on small pieces of paper so they can read through all the great things that the kids did.  For younger children, it may be easier to have a bowl full of pom poms that they put into a jar and for the grownup to keep a running list of random acts of kindness they observe and then share some of them when the child/class earns their reward
~I have discussed this before, but it is too good not to do again in conjunction with We Are All WondersThe Kindness Rocks project is an initiative that spreads kindness through drawing, painting and creating on rocks.  People are encouraged to draw special pictures or write inspirational messages on rocks and then place them throughout their community or take them with them while they are traveling.  The hope is that people will find those rocks and their day will be a bit brighter.  For schools who want to promote social emotional learning, you could have classrooms make their own rocks and place them in different places that can be found. 

Over the next several weeks, I will be sharing my favorite books about teaching kindness, empathy and understanding to children.  I have a whole bunch but am always looking books to add to my library.  If you have any favorites you would like to share, I am always a click away and love hearing from you all!

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