A book inspires Chase Elementary students to choose kindness



“You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.”

That’s the lesson Auggie, a young boy born with a facial difference, learns in the bestselling novel Wonder by RJ Palacio. In the book, he enters his first mainstream school in Grade 5.

According to their teachers Jaime Harpster and Sarah Lancaster, the Grade 5 students at Chase Elementary School are extraordinary in their own ways: smart, vivacious, motivated, and unique. For the language arts unit on transformation, the students read Wonder, conducted research, and reflected on what it means to transform. The teachers wanted their students to experience the sensitivity, acceptance, and bravery of the characters in the book.

A book inspires Chase Elementary students to choose kindness
A book inspires Chase Elementary students to choose kindness
A book inspires Chase Elementary students to choose kindness

“I like how the book was told in many different perspectives, like August, Via, Summer, and Jack Will,” said student Blake Reed. “It wasn’t just one persons’ point of view and how they felt about stuff, how others felt about Auggie getting bullied. I like how it was told in many different ways.”

Students also found personal connections to the story.

“I know a couple of people with special needs problems,” said Autumn Schultz. “Sometimes people jump to conclusions about them and say I don’t want to be friends with them. I’m not like that.”

Blake paid special attention to the fact that Auggie had 28 facial surgeries. “My aunt had 30 surgeries,” said Blake, “… but no one calls her names.”

In response to the book, students painted and stenciled their own “Choose Kind” shirts to promote class unity. Eliana Paragios explains how they chose the slogan. “We were thinking what should we write on the shirts,” Eiliana said. “We wanted ‘choose kind’ because you shouldn’t judge a person by their look.”

Noelyn Metzger said that making the shirts “brought us all together. It was reflecting on something we all loved: Wonder, the book.”

Finally, the students requested a special “field trip” to see the film version of “Wonder,” which was released after they had finished reading the book. On November 20, students, parents, and staff filled a White Marsh AMC theatre – many of them wearing their Choose Kind T-shirts.

“It was cool to see the audience in the theater with the same shirt,” Autumn.  “It was cool that we made them.”

While overall, the Chase group laughed and cried during the film, Autumn’s review was this: “It was good, but I liked the book better because they left parts out of the movie.”

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