A little background…
During the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, my school read Wonder by RJ Palacio for our first “One Book One School” event and promoted the book’s “Choose Kind” message all year long. Students embraced the story and it was a great experience! My students and I used this resource from the Help Readers Love Reading blog and it helped tremendously with student background knowledge and prompting discussions. I highly recommend checking both Wonder and pairing it with this blog if you haven’t already. As you can imagine, it was very exciting and rewarding to discuss and refer to Wonder with students and staff members throughout the year.
Fast forward to May….
This spring, RJ Palacio released an ebook companion to Wonder called “Julian’s Chapter”. If you haven’t read Wonder, Julian is the bully and antagonist of the story that creates a lot of trouble throughout the book. Like any good reading teacher, I kept the release to myself, as I wanted to surprise my students with it and wow, were they excited! They remembered Julian as the bully and mean kid and did not have nice things to say about him. We read “Julian’s Chapter” over the course of a little over a week (it’s a lot longer than I thought it would be) and it was a great way to end the school year. I read it with the students and didn’t preview it ahead of time. This lead to some great discussions as we found things out together.The Help Readers Love Reading blog has some great resources for Julian’s chapter, too. It’s no surprise that reading a story from the bully’s perspective is a unique opportunity and students learned a lot from this read aloud. Every story has two sides and by the end, we appreciated that Palacio gave her readers more story.
Without giving too much away, “Julian’s Chapter” gives insight into why Julian acts the way he does, his home life and how he comes to terms with what happened during his fifth grade school year. He goes to visit his grandmother in Paris and this was my favorite part of the story. His grandmother tells a story from her childhood that Julian has not heard, and it kept my students and I on the edge of our seats. Full disclosure, this part really got me choked up and there was a mad dash to get the teacher some tissues that day! Overall, revisiting RJ Palacio’s characters was a great experience, and one that I’m sure students will remember for a long, long time.
As an educator, it doesn’t get better than this. Through two stories, and lots of discussions over the course of 8 months, we ended the school year full circle – promoting the “Choose Kind” message with a shared reading experience that students will not soon forget.