Books for reluctant readers – Wonder by R.J Palacio

by | Aug 21, 2017

Wonder is a story of strength, courage and bravery, of overcoming obstacles and not letting your fears stand in your way.

It reminds us not to judge people based on how they look.

Wonder is a story every child should read.

Wonder book review - Nikki Young

Image courtesy of Vernon Barford School/Flickr

My eight year old is one of my reluctant readers. He’s a boy for a start and we all know it can be more difficult to get boys to read. He would rather play on the computer or the iPad. In fact, given the chance, this is ALL he would do, ALL day.

He doesn’t get that liberty though. We’re very strict with him because unlike his two older sisters, who can take or leave electronics, the boy seems to have an obsession that could be borderline addiction and I have to say, I don’t like him much when he’s been playing on anything electronic.

Have you experienced this with your children and electronics? The mood changes, the grumpiness, not being able to engage in the here and now – it’s strange how he behaves and I don’t like it one bit. His time, therefore, has to be limited to when we’re travelling and on days when he’s been active for most of it and has earned a bit of quiet time playing his games.

The boy is eight and a half now. He’s an excellent reader and his reluctance is more about laziness. I decided to read Wonder to him as I thought it would be a good book for us both to enjoy. Wonder is an ideal book for a discussion on how to treat people and Auggie, the star of the book, is an inspiring little man.

In case you don’t know, Auggie Pullman has a facial disfigurement, due to a genetic mutation. Having had numerous surgeries, his early life has been spent recovering from and adapting to the changes of these operations, and as a consequence, he has been home-schooled by his mum because he couldn’t attend school.

At the age of 10, his parents think it is time for Auggie to go to school and make friends of his own age and the story is about how Auggie copes with this massive change in his life.

Auggie is aware of people looking at him and how they react, even when they think they’ve hidden their surprise or disgust. In this story, he has to deal with these same reactions from his peers as they learn to adapt to this newcomer to their school. It is a year that will test Auggie’s strength, resolve and resilience to the max.

Why is this book ideal for reluctant readers?

Apart from the engaging story in itself, Wonder is written in a format that works really well for reluctant readers. It’s something I have written about before and the same format I used in my own book.

  • Short chapters – some just one page long – means it’s achievable in small chunks. Readers find themselves thinking they would like to read just one more chapter, then another and another.
  • It’s split into sections – not only do you get Auggie’s perspective, you see the story from all sides – those of Auggie’s friends as well as those who struggle to accept him.

Breaking the text up into sections and small chunks might seem as though it would make the story bitty and lacking flow. This is not the case. Instead, the text becomes manageable and the story moves along at a reasonable pace that keeps the reluctant reader interested.

I started reading this story to my eight year old and before long, he was asking could he read on by himself. I found him reading it in the morning when he woke up and he would read for around half an hour every evening before bed, longer if I let him.

We still read some together and he would tell me what I had missed from the story, recounting in detail what had happened. This was a story that truly engaged him, so much so that he asked if we could get the book of ‘extras’ written by the same author. It’s a book called Auggie and me and it contains three stories from the perspectives of characters not featured in the original story.

Wonder has been adapted into a film starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. My son can’t wait to see this now he has read the story.

I’m always on the lookout for books to engage my reluctant readers, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know. You can read more about my own book here.


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