Thank you to Tilbury House Publishers for the opportunity to be part of this Virtual Tour! For more information on Give a Goat, including curriculum ideas for teachers, visit the publisher's web site.
I can think of few books more suited to Christmas giving than the delightful Give a Goat written by Jan West Schrock and illustrated by Aileen Darragh. This is a plot-heavy book with a message, but it's a valuable message and told in a lighthearted, easy to understand way, accompanied by whimsical watercolor illustrations. One of Mrs. Rowell's fifth grade students tells the story of a rainy day when Mrs. Rowell read them a book, Beatrice's Goat, in which a goat changes the life of a little Ugandan girl. The students immediately want to give a goat to help someone. They are even more excited when they learn that recipients of livestock through Heifer International are asked to pass on offspring of their gift animal to other needy families. Mrs. Rowell warns them that it'll be a lot of work to raise the money and they'll have to work together. They come up with a simple business plan and sell snacks to teachers, with a small initial loan from Mrs. Rowell. They expand their successful business to sell to students as well. Along the way, other classes are inspired to help others (a canned food drive to benefit a food pantry, a car wash to benefit the Red Cross). At the end, Mrs. Rowell's class has raised enough money to give a goat...and some chickens and ducks! My favorite illustration is the chickens flying in a vintage plane.
This book was fantastic. It's hard enough for adults to think about all the needy people in the world, but to explain to children that there are people who need help is a challenge. And Give a Goat is an action plan, not just building awareness of a problem, but teaching how to find a solution. It could be a lesson plan for caring. The children in the book are inspired to help others, and they find a way to do it (guided by a very smart teacher). At the same time, they learn valuable skills about business and math and are empowered by their teacher's hands-off approach to their plan. I defy anyone to read this book and not be inspired (and empowered) to help others. This would be a great book to give as a gift along with a donation to Heifer International or another charity.
Author Jan West Schrock's father, Dan West, was a midwestern farmer who served as a relief worker during the Spanish civil war. As he was handing out milk to needy children one day, he realized, "These children don't need a cup. They need a cow." When he returned home he founded Heifers for Relief, and its first shipment of heifers was sent to Puerto Rico in 1944. Jan herself spent twenty-eight years as a classroom teacher, special needs teacher, and administrator, both in the United States and abroad. She is now a senior advisor for Heifer International, an organization that has grown to serve over 8.5 million people in more than 125 countries. Jan lives in Westbrook, Maine, but travels the world to talk about "passing on the gift."