Compassion learned through the Wonder of Reading

Osolo Elementary students have been introduced to a special character: Auggie Pullman, main character of the New York Times bestselling middle grade novel, “Wonder,” written by R.J. Palacio. The book follows the story of August “Auggie” Pullman, a 10 year old boy diagnosed with a severe facial deformity, as he experiences his first year in a private school, having formerly been homeschooled. Lessons of acceptance, both personally and within your peers, and personal growth and goal-setting are found within the novel. Since its release, the branch has grown, publishing sequels from classmates perspectives, and spinoffs entailing different aspects of the book, along with an abridged version made for a younger audience. A movie version is set to be released this Friday, November 17.

Beginning with one Osolo fifth grade teacher, the book has expanded throughout the school,  with grades three through six reading the full novel, and grades kindergarten through two reading a simplified version called “We’re All Wonders,” geared toward younger minds.

Through a humorous, light approach, “Wonder” is able to touch on much bigger subjects such as bullying and personal acceptance, through many different perspectives. Family members, friends, bullies, and teachers all reflect on the impact of Auggie’s presence in their life.

“I like that the book comes from different viewpoints,” said Melissa Cadotte, 4th grade teacher at Osolo. “I got to read it along with the kids. I didn’t have the chance to read it beforehand, so as they experience and discuss new ideas, I get to experience it right along with them.”

With the book has come a surprising outcome for both the teacher and students: a realization of both the motives and consequences of bullying, and the thought process behind it all.

“For the students everything is so focused on bullying,” said Cadotte. “My surprise was they looked at August as if his deformity meant he had something major wrong with him, as opposed to not being good at math or having a pimple. This led to discussions about how the kids would treat kids with “major” issues compared to someone with a minor uniqueness. This led to discussions about higher level thinking.”

With this higher level thinking has come the opportunity to discuss different mindsets and how they define life goals. The idea of a fixed mindset vs. a growth mindset, or a close-minded versus open-minded mindset, has been a large discussion within the classroom, encouraging students to not only reach for their dreams, and believe that they are capable of doing so, but also encouraging their peers to do the same, remembering their teacher’s words: “You are not there yet, but we’re going to get there.”

“August is a unique person,” said fourth grader, Alexis Moser. “I learned that some people are different from other people, and that that’s okay.”

With the release of the film adaptation approaching quickly, Osolo hopes to conclude reading by the release date, November 17, in hopes of inviting all of their students and their families to meet at the theatre to see it all together.