New York Times bestseller ‘Wonder’ inspires Racine students to spread compassion


RACINE -- "Wonder" is a New York Times bestseller that was turned into a critical and commercial success at the box office. The tagline is "you can't blend in when you were born to stand out," and the story is having a profound effect on thousands of students in Racine.

“They should continue, because there’s a lot of positivity going around," said Tyler Lynch, sixth-grader.

Sympathy and compassion is spreading among classmates, thanks to the best-selling novel and movie.

“It was really helpful to us to understand what Auggie was going through, and what people at this school might be going through too," said Kaylee Gaines, sixth-grader.

"Wonder" tells the story of Auggie Pullman, a fictional fifth-grader with a severely disfigured face. As he enters a new school, he must make new friends, avoid bullies and deal with his own insecurities.

“He faced his fears and kept on going with his day," said Gaines.

In December, SC Johnson provided more than 9,000 copies of the novel to Racine-area students in fourth through eighth grades. That paired with a curriculum in the classrooms that fostered open and honest conversations.

Amy Winter

“How to be nicer to classmates. How they want to be treated. Just because people may act or look different, it doesn’t make them any less special or important," said Amy Winter, SC Johnson manager of global community affairs.

For the last two weeks, all of those students have had the special treat of seeing the movie -- which stars Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson -- at the local Marcus Renaissance Cinema.

Teachers and students alike said the impact of the program is noticeable.

“Changes in their students when it comes to how they communicate with one another. They are seeing a greater sense of empathy on all students’ parts," said Christopher Thompson, executive director of curriculum and instruction for the Racine Unified School District.

“In my classes, people have being nice to each other and not pushing [each other] around and stuff," said Lynch.

It's proof that a fictional story has led to real change in Racine.