RACINE — A Downtown office building was a flurry of activity on Thursday afternoon as SC Johnson employees placed stickers on and packed more than 9,000 copies of the book “Wonder,” which are to be delivered to local students.
The books are scheduled to be handed out in mid-January to fourth- through eighth-grade students who attend Racine Unified schools, as well as parochial and independent schools east of Interstate 94.
“We’ve had numerous programs that have focused on literacy and really this is just another one to encourage kids in the community to read and enjoy reading,” said James A. Ladwig, SC Johnson’s director of global community affairs.
“Wonder,” is a New York Times bestselling book by R.J. Palacio that was made into a movie starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. The books tells the tale of a boy with facial differences attending a mainstream school for the first time. The movie version was released in theaters on Nov. 17.
Along with the books, students will work through a corresponding curriculum provided by myFace, a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming the lives of patients with facial disfigurement. According to its website, myFace puts a special focus on children and their families and funds medical, surgical, dental and psychosocial services as well as research and public awareness.
The curriculum asks students to write a short story about something in the book or to pen an essay about a superhero who overcame adversity.
In March, after students have read the book and worked through the curriculum, SC Johnson will fund field trips for students to watch the movie version of “Wonder” at the Marcus Renaissance Cinema in Sturtevant.
“It will provide an opportunity to bring the book to life,” Ladwig said.
‘A community-wide endeavor’
Racine Unified Deputy Superintendent Eric Gallien spoke about SC Johnson’s literacy initiative during Monday’s School Board meeting.
“They (SC Johnson) are going to be creating all types of incentives at the student level, teacher level, school level to engage students in the process of using the tools that they’ve provided,” Gallien said.
The company also plans to bring together some grade levels for an assembly that might feature doctors who will speak about the facial deformity at the heart of the book or even possibly Jacob Tremblay, the young actor who plays the lead role in the movie.
“So this is a really big experience and we are part of a community-wide endeavor,” Gallien said.
The project is just one of many efforts by SC Johnson to encourage a love of reading in the community. The company has also been a proponent of Racine Reads, the Racine Public Library bookmobile and the local Battle of the Books competition.
“Ultimately, as a company, we’ve had a long-held philosophy that in the communities that we’re located in it’s our job to make those communities better because we’re there and this is just one example of that,” Ladwig said.
Ladwig said that although SC Johnson hopes that kids learn inclusion and acceptance from the book, the main goal of the initiative is to encourage reading within the community.
“Literacy in youth makes kids better and it makes the community better,” Ladwig said. “We’re a firm believer in education.”
Sometimes, a book can be an escape for a child who doesn’t have the best living situation, he said.
“That book allows them to experience things that they would never experience in life without reading,” Ladwig said.
About 25 local SC Johnson employees gathered in an office at 141 Main St. in Downtown Racine on Thursday to put stickers inside all 9,000 books. The stickers tell the students where the books came from.