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'Wonder' novel, film challenges audience to 'be kind'

Cary Ashby • Nov 21, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Monday morning was an opportunity for Main Street School sixth-graders to learn life lessons while watching a movie.

Thanks to an anonymous donation, all 212 students were treated to watching the new film “Wonder” at Premiere Theatre 8 Norwalk. The PG-rated movie is based on the children’s novel of the same name by R.J. Palacio.

“It’s a world-wide phenomenon; it’s spreading,” said Stephanie Riggs, who teaches fifth- and sixth-grade language arts. “The message of the book is to be kind. If you can be anything, be kind.”

The main character in “Wonder” is a school-age boy who has Treacher collins syndrome.

“It’s a medical condition where his face is deformed, but cognitively, he’s like everyone else. It’s mostly about acceptance and coming of age,” Riggs said. “Just because someone looks different doesn’t mean they are different than anyone else.”

When she was at dinner recently, Riggs was sharing the positive messages of the book and film and said the people with her were “gracious enough” to treat the sixth-grade class to a morning at the movies.

Education aide Carolynn Ciersezwski has read “Wonder” twice.

“The first time I read it, it was because it just came out. The second time I’m reading it with a language arts class,” she said.

“It’s a heart-warming story,” added Ciersezwski, who believes people reading the novel should be challenged to “choose kind.”

Ciersezwski, Riggs and several other Main Street teachers wore black T-shirts with the phrase “choose kind.”

“That has been a theme this year. Our (school) hallways are themed with it,” Ciersezwski said.

Intervention specialist Julie Riley first read “Wonder” on her own.

“But I’m in the midst of reading it (again) with my students,” she said.

Riley considers the novel’s message important for “students who are in smilar circumstances” as the main character and might be bullied.

“It gives them an avenue to understand people who are a little bit different than themselves,” she said.

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