A gazillion steps away

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.

"African Heartbeat" By Barb Christing. ©2011 World Vision

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.

Win a copy of African Heartbeat, courtesy of World Vision, on Alise’s blog from today through May 18; or buy it online at WorldVisionResources.com.


    Read what others are saying about African Heartbeat:

    My daughter read this book with her Sunday School class. When she got home, she was so inspired and wanted our family to sponsor a child too. Together, we found another little girl that was eight years old like her and living in India . 'Roshni' had the brightest smile in her photo. This young girl lives with her parents and has no siblings. Quickly Jaiden said with joy, "she has a sister now!" We are looking forward to learn all about her through our letters. My daughter is growing in her faith and generosity towards others. Thank you for writing this book!
    - Maya Hivale

    This book is wonderful! I begged my mom if we could also sponsor a child like Katie did. I was so happy when she said, "Sure". When I first saw Roshni's photo, I loved her beautiful, bright smile. She already had common things like me, such as playing with dolls and enjoying mathematics. That night, I could hardly sleep because of my excitement and joy in my heart. I felt a special blessing from Jesus. I hope to one day travel to India and visit Roshni in person. What an awesome adventure that will be!
    - Jaiden Mrla (age 8)

    Last night the kid’s bedtime reading was African Heartbeat. As Chloe read, Darnel jumped up with paper and pencil in hand and started writing his brother in Kenya. Chloe wouldn't stop talking about all the things she wants to send her sister in Sri Lanka.

    One EXTREMELY nice touch to this book...page 33-34 where Barb gives information about the country of Malawi. Take notice on how she points out “how sponsorship changes everyday life: clothes went from rags to pretty dresses…a school is being built, etc. VERY, VERY nice touch. We sat and looked back and forth at the pages mentioned and pointed out all that changed.

    I think this is a great story yet very educational for children.

    Bravo Barb - Absolutely love it!!
    -Jojo Palmer

    What a tremendous privilege it was for my husband and I to be able to read your book to our grandson Grant's 4th grade classroom. We had a captive audience of 20 eager students as Jack talked about sponsorship, the country of Malawi, the challenges the children and their families face in their country, and the circumstances in which the children live.

    It was fun reading the story as well as teaching the children the songs that you taught Katie. We sang it to the tune of 'Mama's Going to Buy You a Mocking Bird', and then the entire class enthusiastically sang it. What joy to see and hear them sing about love turning strangers into friends and being a family to one another!

    Your book is absolutely endearing from word one to the end of the book. I appreciate how you interwove the two different worlds of Katie and Neema, and gradually narrowed their worlds down to "not being that much different" after all. We also appreciated the information for parents and educators at the end of the book to be able to read and implement. We definitely plan to teach and talk more about Neema's world as we hope to share the gift of generosity with all the students."

    -Barbara and Jack Haney

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