In a "Wonder" of a week, R.J. Palacio, Naperville READS 2013 children's author, visited Naperville for three days, talking with almost 7,000 children and adults, signing more than 2,000 books and answering hundreds of questions.
Adding to the wonder of the week were the ripples caused by Palacio's book, "Wonder," and her campaign for Choose Kind.
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The wave started quietly in January with students returning from winter break to find teachers in Naperville Unit District 203 and Indian Prairie Unit District 204 had included "Wonder" in their lesson plans.
The excitement began to grow, and some students worked on special projects. Students from Meadow Glens Elementary in District 203 and May Watts Elementary in District 204 took part in a special Naperville READS presentation to the Naperville City Council.
Other Meadow Glens students created videos. Choose Kind and anti-bullying videos by students from Beebe, Kingsley and Maplebrook elementary schools and Lincoln Junior High School then were shown at all of Palacio's Naperville presentations.
Every fifth-grader in Naperville was invited to hear Palacio speak during special school day appearances.
After hearing the author, the student council at Gombert Elementary School planned a special Choose Kind day. During the event, fifth-grade students engaged in table discussions about what Choose Kind meant to them, and more than 250 students signed the Choose Kind pledge and constructed a bulletin board showcasing explanations of exactly what they were going to do to Choose Kind.
Fifth-grader and student council President Marisella Kidd introduced the project and then led a table discussion about Summer, a character in the book: "She was sitting with her people but saw Auggie. She didn't care about what others thought. I think she was very brave to do that."
Palacio is the first of two Naperville READS 2013 authors to visit. Adult and teen author Naomi Benaron will be in town during the first week in April and will give a free public presentation Wednesday, April 3.
Since its inception in 2002, Naperville READS has worked to engage the entire community in reading and discussing selected titles. Naperville READS is sponsored by Jumping Off the Page, in partnership with Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville Public Library, Naperville Unit District 203 and Indian Prairie Unit District 204.
The project is partially supported by a grant from the city of Naperville.
Joni Probst, reading specialist at Gombert Elementary, hopes the ripples from "Wonder" and Choose Kind spread beyond the school and into the community.
"It's a great discussion book for families," she said. "Both children and adults can enjoy her book."