Beatrice’s Goat is written by Page McBrier and illustrated by Lori Lohstoeter. This is the true story of a young girl from Uganda and her family. The family’s life changes with the gift of a goat from the Heifer International nonprofit organization.
The story reads almost like an inspirational fable; it is beautifully written. Page McBrier describes Beatrice’s daily routine of helping her mother with her younger brothers and sisters, gardening, tending chickens and grinding cassava flour. At times she stands under the jackfruit tree and longingly watches the students on the benches outside of the schoolhouse; Beatrice dreams of having enough money to pay for books and a school uniform so that she too can study and learn. The illustrations by Lori Lohstoeter are beautiful, warm and touching. You can feel the affection between Beatrice and her siblings and the goats. As would be expected and hoped for, Beatrice is able to attend school at the end of the book.
Beatrice’s Goat is perfect for “read-aloud” in elementary classrooms. This book has an afterword by Hillary Clinton which provides the opportunity to see what our children know about this woman that is now a part of our American History.
Heifer International is a wonderful organization. If you visit their website: Heifer International, their mission is to “to work with communities to end world hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth.” It also states: “The core of our model is Passing on the Gift. This means families share the training they receive, and pass on the first female offspring of their livestock to another family. This extends the impact of the original gift, allowing a once impoverished family to become donors and full participants in improving their communities.” Page McBrier wrote a follow up book called One Cow and Counting,which explains the ongoing gift.
Activities for this book:
Stimulate Background knowledge before reading:
- Find Uganda and your home town on a map of the world
- Write the quote (whose origins are not certain); “Give a person a fish, and you feed him/her for a day. Teach a person to fish, and you feed him/her for a lifetime” on the board. Have your students work in small groups to discuss what they feel it means.
- In their small groups, ask the students to write or come up with 5 things they would have done today if they were not able to come to school.
- Have the groups come up with 5 jobs they could work at as adults if they never were able to go to school and never learned to read or write.
- Write vocabulary words on the board that fit your students, ex: Africa, livestock, community, goat, village, brother, sister…
- Ask the students if anyone has raised goats, chickens, farm animals. You may want to show this fun video about goats made by Heifer International: InfoAboutGoats. It is only 1 minute long.
Read aloud Beatrice’s Goat to the class showing and discussing the pictures.
Assessment activities to check for understanding and reinforce the new knowledge after reading the book:
- In their groups, have the students list how Mugisa (the goat) changed Beatrice and her family’s life.
- Have students work in groups to brainstorm how a goat could help a family in need.
- Go to http://www.heifer.org/ and read about this organization. At this time you can buy a goat for $120 for a family or a share for $10. Discuss (if you want) if your class/school would like to donate a goat or share to this cause.
- Ask the students if they see any correlation between Heifer International and “teach a person to fish”.
- Read the afterword by Hillary Clinton and ask what the students know about her and then do a search on the internet to learn more about her.
I contacted Page McBrier and she gave me the following information:
Heifer’s Read to Feed Program features grade level books/lesson plans/resources for classrooms, and the best part is that all the materials, including the downloadable books, are free! http://www.heifer.org/readtofeed/resources/index.html (click on support materials). Each grade level has its own picture book: I (Page McBrier) wrote three of the books (The Chicken and the Worm for pre-K/K; Winter in Songming for gr 3-4; and Once There Was and Was Not for gr 5-6). Beatrice’s Goat, which was originally the book for gr 1-2 has recently been replaced with Flora the Runaway Rooster. All of the books and their lessons would be a good resource for your Global School Library. Also, I wrote a picture book titled One Cow and Counting that explains all the blessings that have come from the passing of the gift. The illustrations are based on Heifer’s 7M’s (meat, money, milk, manure, etc) and include interesting facts about animals, world hunger and sustainability. It’s available in the Heifer gift shop as well.
Please visit the authors website at: Pagemcbrier.com
Please visit the illustrator’s website at: LoriLohstoeter
For more book reviews with activities and classroom strategies please visit: globalschoollibrary.wordpress.com
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