Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Reading Beatrice's Goat Together

How it all started 
...with a little help from my friends
 Andrew Eder & Diane W. Frankenstein

A number of months ago I attended a Conversational Reading Workshop lead by Diane W. Frankenstein, author of Reading Together  Everything You Need to Know to Raise a Child Who Loves to Read.  The seminar provided a day of stimulating conversation about every librarian's favorite subject - READING GREAT BOOKS.  The attendees of this workshop received a $500. grant made possible by the generosity of Andrew Eder as well as a copy of Diane W. Frankenstein's book.  Our task: to implement conversational reading.

So, that's how it started.  

Now you must consider the fact that the world of books, was talking about diversity at this time.  Shouting "cultural diversity" from the hill tops to the publishing houses.  Our books, our library collections and our programs must reflect our community.  That, my friends, is the honest to goodness truth.  Ask Piper, she knows.  

Okay...  I bet you know what we did.  Yes we did!  

We took conversational reading added cultural diversity and discovered that the sum of these two was far greater than we could have imagined.  A wonderful story was about to unfold in our little library in Connecticut. 

On page #29 in Diane Frankenstein's Reading Together you'll find the title Beatrice's Goat written by Page McBrier.  This book, based on the true story of an African girl with dreams of an education AND an income-producing goat, provided by Heifer Project International was selected for our program.  We have African families in our library's diverse community.   This book appeared to be a good match, we owned it and we liked the additional message of empowerment, the "contribute to create a better world feeling."  

In April while the Association for Library Services to Children adopted  The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children we were submitting book orders to enhance our collection and purchasing new baby dolls.  We planned the program, "Diversity in Action, Conversational Reading" advertised on the library's FB page and Piper tweeted out on #colormyshelf.

And then...after all this...we discovered that Beatrice Biira, the real girl from Uganda, the girl in the book, came to the United States to continue her education.  She came to Connecticut -she graduated from Connecticut College.  We're one of those tiny states, so this was pretty cool.  Oh, there's more...the Heifer Project International funds that brought the goats to Kisinga, Uganda, Beatrice's village, came from a little village in Connecticut - Niantic.  This just happens to be my village - where Piper and I spend our family holidays each year.  We didn't know this - incredible!

Needless to say, we did a fair amount (read: tons) of research on Beatrice and her family.  We posted photos of Beatrice as a child and as a young adult in our program room.  Fascinating!   We discovered that Beatrice learned to weave when she attended school in Kisinga - so we weaved!

Our program was alive and colorful.  It felt like "ours" The program had a grander meaning because Beatrice was connected to our home of Connecticut.  We connected with Beatrice, the 9 year old little girl in Uganda.  Beatrice was one of our kids on June 25th, 2014.  It felt that way, it surely did!  The conversation flowed.  The families shared.  We learned about each other.  We talked about school and houses and family and food.  We discovered how someone's life could change with the gift of a goat.  Who knew?   Oh!  We had goat's milk...we had to...Beatrice drank it!

Although some of us had popsicles... because... it's all good!

We are very thankful to Andrew Eder for the generous gift he provided many Connecticut Libraries this year.  At the Faxon Library we have 40 new, culturally diverse children's books.  We have beautiful new baby dolls that are being loved and loved and some crazy colorful paper for an assortment of Diversity in Action crafts.  Many thanks to Mr Andrew Eder and to Diane W Frankenstein for her inspiration, enthusiasm and endless energy.  

P.S. (Piper Script): loved the goat's milk!  

UPDATE 7.20.14  After publishing this post Piper and I heard from Diane Frankenstein.  She asked to include us in her blog, Diane's Musings, we're so very flattered!  And here's the link to Diane Frankenstein's Musings.   Click it, you'll like it!  


  1. A great story well told!

  2. Very Cool! We are going to be reading this book in my Kindergarten class this week. This was a great help! Thank you for all the great ideas and information.


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