Stories surrounding global poverty that are produced for children are arguably critical in terms of enabling the world’s youth to gain an understanding from an early age about the importance of helping the world’s poor. When reading a book, it is crucial that children see themselves in stories and are able to learn more about the world in the process of doing this. Authors can therefore be utilized through producing books that build a level of empathy and understanding in children. For those in poverty, it is very affirming and gratifying to see people much like themselves being portrayed in a book, where otherwise the world’s key and most pressing issues are not mentioned or absent from children’s books.
As Anna McQuinn, a children’s author best known for the Lulu/Lola books, states, “Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that, we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience.”
This article explores three children’s books that tackle the subject of poverty: “Beatrice’s Goat,” “The Hard Times Jar” and “Coat of Many Colors.”
Written by Page McBrier and Lori Lohstoeter, this book tells a true story. It is the tale of how one Ugandan Child’s life was changed through the gift of a goat, which was given to the family through a charity called Heifer International.
A young girl named Beatrice is from a completely poverty-stricken family, and she is prevented from going to school simply because her mother is unable to afford the cost of books and a uniform.
Therefore, instead of attending school, Beatrice helps her mother run the house, look after her siblings and feed the chickens. However, Beatrice finds herself consistently standing outside the school observing the other children, yearning to be one of them. Then, almost by a miracle, life suddenly completely changes for Beatrice and her family, as they receive a goat named Mugsia. The family is one of 12 selected to receive a goat by Heifer International.
This heartwarming story raises awareness about poverty, advocates for children to receive access to a good education and teaches those who poverty does not affect about the fundamental importance school has in people’s lives. Furthermore, the fact that the family receives a goat is a heartwarming end to the story, which shows the power of kindness and charity, and the phenomenal difference they can have upon a family.
“The Hard Times Jar”
“The Hard Times Jar,” written by Ethel Footman Smothers and John Holyfield, details Smothers’ life as a young child, growing up in a migrant worker family, with little money and facing true hardship. The story tells of a young girl called Emma who loves writing stories, but due to the severe state of poverty she is in, she is forced to make books that are covered in old grocery sacks held together by safety pins.
Dreaming of the day when she can produce proper books, Emma helps her parents all she can by making extra money and putting it in the “hard times jar,” despite knowing that none of the money will be spent on books. Desperate, devastated and destitute, Emma is determined that things might be different one day, as she gets a job as an apple picker, in order to purchase her dream notebook.
This is a heartbreaking story, which shows the extreme lengths a child in poverty will go to in order to support their family and purchase a simple notebook that she requires to take to school with her.
The story teaches readers about children who are less fortunate than themselves. Exploring the struggles of migrant families also promotes compassion for these individuals and raises awareness about poverty by encouraging children to be aware of the issue and potentially donate to a charity.
Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors”
None other than the famous singer Dolly Parton has produced a book that educates children about growing up in poverty.
The story describes how Dolly’s mother made her a beautifully colorful patchwork coat made of rags, that she believed was similar to that of Joseph’s in the Bible. Full of happiness upon receiving the coat, Dolly proudly goes to school.
However, much to Dolly’s dismay, the other children do not have the same opinion and instead bully and make fun of her for it.
At the end of the book, Dolly’s personal letter to children all across the world acknowledges the great shame she experienced as a child and the profound level of alienation inflicted upon her simply because she was poor.
Therefore, Dolly encourages other children to be kinder and more understanding towards their peers and teaches that it was the other children’s opinions — not Dolly’s — that were incorrect in this story. With this book, Dolly works towards creating a fairer society for all, one that teaches the world’s youth to understand poverty and its implications.
Inspired by her song “Coat of Many Colors,” a favorite of Dolly’s, the story sends a heartwarming message that many children in the world can relate to and resonate with, instilling a sense of pride.
Children’s books are arguably crucial in terms of supporting the fight to end global poverty. By raising awareness from a young age, children learn to understand pressing and true issues that take place across the world.
– Megan Rose Miley