Have you ever tried to coax your girl to be nice to the kid others avoid? She listens, but the next time you are in the lunch room, that same lonely kid is still had no tablemates. And you sigh because as much as you want your girl to be kind, you don’t want to cause her to ostracized from her friends. Because kids are mean and that might happen. If you caught Monday’s mentor mom post, maybe you had a hard time relating. Perhaps instead of the victim of teasing, your girls is the teaser. I know two stories that might help moms with either kind of daughter.
Storied are more powerful than a lecture from mom or a teacher. And I have two books for you: great, memorable stories to teach empathy or maybe even bravery. Both have a target audience of middle school and while neither are Christian in the way they teach values, you will love the lessons that can be found in the pages. They are realistic and painfully honest about life inside a tween body that is not “normal.” But the characters, well, they shine anyway.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio–is a beautifully written story with characters who haunt you for months after you finish reading it whether you are 10 or 90. August Pullman is a 10-year-old boy who is starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep. He is a typical tween boy, except for severe facial deformities that forced him to be homeschooled before 5th grade. The story starts from August’s point of view and then switches to a classmate, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. All the points of view meet at the end to finish a memorable story. The characters are intensely real, charming, horrid, brave, and cowardly. There are adults in this book who are wise (adolescent lit is not known for portraying adults in this light). In a world where bullying is a real, but difficult to beat foe, this story is powerful. Wonder has climbed to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List and is Amazon’s top pick for Best Middle Grade Books of 2012. You should read it and so should your tween. And then escape to coffee shop for a fabulous book analysis with some thinly veiled application thrown in.
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Melody is an 11-year-old who suffers from cerebral palsy. She can speak almost no words and can do very little for herself. But her mind? She knows more than most of the adults who work with because her mind works like a video camera and she remembers everything. But no one knows how smart she is. Until technology gives her a new way to communicate and suddenly Melody can try and be part of the middle school world. Her adventures into the world of normal are not sugar coated and the quiz team experience she has is only for the bravest of souls.
Both of these books will push you girl to expand the way she thinks about others and to understand the meaning of the cliche “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Happy Reading! If you know other books you would add to this list of empathy developers, leave a comment.