Rosedale Elementary teacher Mary Sampson is weaving lessons on character into her 3rd-grade classroom, and her students can’t get enough.
“When you have third graders clap because you’re reading another chapter of a book, I mean that tells you something, that you’re doing something right,” Sampson told My Wabash Valley.
Each day after recess Sampson takes 20 minutes to read the book Wonder to her class of 9-year-olds, and they’re soaking up the lessons on kindness, sharing, empathy, and listening through the story of a young student who suffers from a craniofacial disorder. The disfiguring condition means the main character looks much different than his classmates, a reality that leads to both bullying and lifelong friendships.
The story hits home for many in Sampson’s class, which includes several students with disabilities.
“They had to learn to deal with kids that make a lot of noises or kids that need to walk around the classroom or not sit in their chair the whole time,” Sampson told the news site.
The book, along with classroom activities that encourage students to recognize kind acts and share them with others at the school, is making a big impact.
“We just learned about being kind to one another, don’t judge a book by its cover,” 3rd-grader Avery Cottrell said. “You have to treat others how you want to be treated if you want to be treated good.”
Lionsgate Films, which adapted Wonder into a motion picture, is putting that theme into action with 50 free movie tickets for Sampson’s class to watch the new film on the big screen—one of only 20 classrooms nationwide to earn the honor.
Sampson’s class shared the tickets with a 5th-grade class at Rosedale that’s also reading Wonder.
“It was just so exciting we all started screaming,” 5th-grade student Marley Kilzer told My Wabash Valley, adding that she’s learned powerful lessons from the book. “You shouldn’t judge people by what they look like, you should judge them by how they treat you and what’s within them.”
James Davison Hunter, founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, underscored a focus on others in his book The Tragedy of Moral Education in America.
“Implicit in the word ‘character’ is a story,” Hunter wrote. “It is a story about living for a purpose that is greater than the self.”
What books have you found that draw children from quick judgments about others toward true care for each other?