Books Can Shape A Child’s Heart: Mitali Perkins
Stories are powerful allies as we seek to raise a generation of compassionate children. I distinctly remember the moment when I grasped the beauty of sacrificial giving. I was nine years old and befriending Sara Crewe in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Little Princess (J. B. Lippincott) for the first time.
I remember being astounded by the gesture because at that point in the story my heart was aching over Sara’s suffering. And now my literary friend had given away the food I had so wanted her to relish! But somehow I knew it was the right thing to do. From that point on, in my travels across the globe, as I encountered children begging on the streets, I would remember that scene in The Little Princess and be stirred to respond.
In her now-classic Horn Book essay, “Against Borders” , Hazel Rochman explains why stories have this mysterious power to build community:
They can break down borders. And the way that they do that is not with role models and recipes, not with noble messages about the human family, but with enthralling stories that make us imagine the lives of others. A good story lets you know people as individuals in all their particularity and conflict; and once you see someone as a person – their meanness and their courage – then you’ve reached beyond stereotype.If Afghanistan is in the headlines, for example, it’s worth a trip to a library or bookstore to bring back Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed (Eerdmans Books, 2007), a story of two girls in a Pakistani refugee camp waiting for resettlement to North America. I recently read this moving portrayal of friendship aloud to a young visitor, and we both got choked up as Feroza gave Lina a farewell gift of one sandal, completing the pair the two of them had shared.Feroza. Lina. Amadi. Andrew. Sophy. Amelia. Their enthralling, individual stories illuminate life on the road as a migrant worker, in a Nigerian or Cambodian village, in a Pakistani refugee camp, or even in an airport. Introducing them to the children under your tutelage is one of the best ways to widen their hearts and their world. Not to mention your own.
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Image Source: Collin Key