Editor’s note: The following is a guest post written by World Vision mommy blogger Alise Wright.
Though my children are getting old for picture books, I can still talk them into snuggling with me on the couch every now and again to read with me. And if I’m really lucky, the kids will ask me to read them a bedtime story. When I got African Heartbeat from World Vision by Barb Christing, I made sure that I gathered up the kids and sat down for a read.
African Heartbeat is a beautiful story about young Katie in America and little Neema in Africa. Katie has a desire to go to Africa to meet her sponsored sister, Neema, and she knows that even though their worlds are “a gazillion steps away,” the world gets smaller as her heart grows larger. Through sponsorship, Katie finds her heart growing larger each day.
I love that African Heartbeat doesn’t shy away from difficult topics like AIDS and the reality of extreme poverty. It’s easy to assume that children are unable to process issues of this magnitude, but Christing’s story makes them accessible even to young children.
This story shows a wonderful progression in the life of both the sponsoring family and the sponsored child. The reader, no matter how young or old, is able to see how sponsorship allows Neema to have a better life through education, training, and friendship.
The final pages in the book give some additional information to parents so that they are able to expand on the sponsorship story. It includes a map showing the location of Malawi in Africa, where Neema lives, a translation of the various Swahili names in the book, and some items to look for in the pictures, highlighting the differences in the community before and after sponsorship.
It makes me happy to see books like this that encourage our children to have a more global outlook. Compassion is something that children can learn from an early age, and African Heartbeat can be a useful tool in fostering that sense of looking beyond our own desires to help those who are less fortunate than us. Any adult who has a child in his or her life who exhibits a heart for those in need would find this book to be extremely beneficial in nurturing that desire.
Each day, the world gets smaller through various media available to us. But what allows us to really connect is not the media, but our hearts. African Heartbeat shows that none are too young to make an impact on another person — even from a gazillion steps away.