Whitehall Library promotes kindness through 'Wonder'
Whitehall Public Library is working to promote kindness across all of Whitehall Borough, with an effort to have the community read R.J. Palacio's “Wonder.”
During National Library Week, which runs through April 14, the library is launching a community reading initiative with the goal that everyone in the borough reads the same book.
The goal of the initiative, which will include programs at the library — both big and small — is to create “a spirit of community,” said library director Paula Kelly, as well as ignite people in the borough to be “intentionally kind.”
Kelly got the idea for the community-wide read initiative from the Allegheny County Library Association's former “One Book, One Community” program.
“I always thought that was very cool to get communities reading the same thing,” she said.
In 2017, Whitehall library received funding from the Jack Buncher Foundation that was used to purchase multiple copies of “Wonder” and it's children's book companion, “We're all Wonders.”
Kelly said “Wonders” was the perfect fit for the initiative.
“It just fosters kindness and inclusion and family and all sorts of feel good themes and emotions,” she said.
The book tells the story of a boy named August “Auggie” Pullman who is born with severe craniofacial disfigurement. As a child, he undergoes 27 surgeries and is able to enter public school for the first time in fifth grade.
Chapters are told from the perspective of different characters, illustrating how Auggie is treated because of the way he looks. Readers learn that Auggie just wants to be a normal kid and to be accepted for the person he is.
“It's the kind of book that everyone could read,” Kelly said.
In all, Whitehall library bought nearly 200 copies of the books. Some were given as gifts to local schools, community groups and churches, so that everyone will have access to the book.
Throughout the library, there will be ways to celebrate kindness throughout the initiative.
Patrons can stop by the library and write a thank you letter to public works, police or fire departments. Or, stop by for an idea for how to commit a random act of kindness.
The library also will host a series of programs that tie into the book that include an anti-bullying puppet show and a visit with Nick Wiese, who has apert syndrome, a condition similar to Auggie's.
The programs are sponsored by the Friends of the Whitehall Public Library.
“The Friends of the Whitehall Public Library are proud to be underwriting the many wonderful programs associated with Whitehall Reads Wonder,” Friends President Barbara Duff said in an email.
The Friends are amidst their annual fundraising campaign to raise money for the Whitehall library and programs like this one, Duff said, noting programs like this are possible through people's donations.
Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.