On My Bookshelf: Out Of My Mind by Sharon Draper

September 14, 2015

Recommended Read: Out of My Mind by Sharon Drapier. Melody wants the same things as any other fifth grade girl: to fit in, have friends, and maybe even get a spot on the Quiz Team. there is just one problem, she can't talk, and once she can, not everyone wants to listen.
Basic plot: Melody is a fifth grade girl with cerebral palsy. She is confined to a wheel chair and unable to walk, but worst of all, unable to talk. Melody has so many thoughts that she has never been able to share with anyone. Melody's mother, father, and her two year old sister Penny all love her and her neighbor, Ms. V, helps to build a word board for her, but it isn't until Melody gets a Medi Talker (a text to speech converter) that she feels like she is finally able to communicate with the people around her. At school, Melody is able to attend regular classes with her new Medi Talker and her assistant Catherine. She even qualifies to be on the school's Quiz Team, which is set to participate in the national competition. Not everyone is as enthusiastic about Melody's new ability to "talk" and just when everything seems to be looking up for Melody, the unthinkable happens.

Why I liked it: Author Sharon Draper has the ability to tell it like it is, to tell the stories of the often overlooked lives without creating sympathy or pity for the characters, and Out of My Mind is no exception. She doesn't shy away from any issues, even uncomfortable ones, like how difficult it is for Melody to go to the bathroom or the embarrassment of having to be fed, but does so without creating pity for Melody. The first person narration allows us to see first hand the struggles of being a young girl and a student with physical limitations, but that ultimately Melody wants the same things as any girl her age: friendship and a sense of belonging.

Classroom application: Out of My Mind would be an excellent read aloud choice for grades 4-8 and could be paired with nonfiction texts to be used in a unit on disabilities and/or differences. The novel could also be offered as a choice for literature circle on the same topics. Two books I used previously in 7th and 8th grades on these topics were Tangerine by Edward Bloor and Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

During or after reading Out of My Mind would be an excellent time for students to engage in a service learning project with other students with special needs whether it would be another classroom within the same school or an outside organization.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Out Of My Mind for yourself, you can find it on Amazon

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:

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