When Mallory Haupert read the first few chapters of the book "Out of My Mind" to her third- and fourth-grade class at Stevenson Elementary School in Elk Grove Village, some of her students wanted to keep reading.
One of them, 9-year-old Zoe Urany, not only finished the book, she used it to help launch a reading partnership between her classmates and the school's special-needs students.
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The book, by Sharon M. Draper, focuses on the struggles and positive moments of Melody, an 11-year-old who has a photographic memory but cannot communicate because of a disability. Among her difficulties is dealing with having to listen to nursery rhymes in school when she could handle much more difficult material.
Zoe wondered if there were students in her school who felt the same.
"In the book, it said Melody was tired of being treated like a baby," she said.
Zoe asked Haupert if her class could read to the school's special-needs students. After working to organize schedules with special-services teacher Vicki Hoeferle, Haupert's students began going downstairs every Tuesday to the special-needs classes, where they read picture books together in small groups.
An assortment of "Larkin's Little Readers" and authors such as Dr. Suess and Patricia Polakko are among the popular choices.
"They really like it," Zoe said, adding that one of her favorite parts about the program is when she hears a "thank you."
Haupert is excited that her students are thinking about the world around them and that they're always eager to read with the special needs students.
"I was surprised, in a happy way, that a book really inspired them," she said of "Out of My Mind."
Hoeferle appreciates the culture the groups have developed, saying the students seem to enjoy their time together.
"They come and they are so excited to help," Hoeferle said. "They walk away realizing these (special needs) kids are so much smarter, and they can do so much more, than people think."