GIVEAWAY: The Read-Aloud Family

Gwen Smith Giveaways 121 Comments

Happy Friday, Everybody! Today’s Guest Post and Giveaway is great. I’m excited to introduce you to Sarah Mackenzie.

Enjoy this excerpt from The Read-Aloud Family and be sure to leave a comment so you qualify for the giveaway!!


I’ve known about the Sudan water crisis for as long as I can remember. I’ve watched news blurbs on TV and skimmed articles in the newspaper about how entire villages in Africa struggle to obtain clean water for their families. It makes me so sad, striking me with a sudden sense of despair at the overwhelming problems of the world. So much hurt. So much suffering.

Even so, I was sucker-punched last year when I read Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water, a middle-grade novel that tells the story of two Sudanese eleven-year-olds. Half of the book is set in 1985 and based on the true story of Salva, one of the lost boys of Sudan, who crossed the entire African continent by foot in search of safety. The other half tells the story of Nya, a fictional present-day girl who spends eight hours each and every day trudging through the dusty heat, thorns puncturing her feet, sun beating relentlessly on her back, as she sets out to gather two jugs of water for her family.

Every day. Two jugs.

It’s a fast read, and I devoured it in two afternoons. I read while watching my small kids play in our backyard sandbox, and every few pages I’d find myself staring at my three small children—my twin boys and my little girl. My own pair of Salvas, my own little Nya. I wondered about the children in the book, considered the magnitude of the trials they faced. How did they bear it? What must it do to the human spirit to carry such a crushing load? How on earth do others like them survive such a life?

I paused from my reading and watched one of the twins pour water through a funnel, creating a rivulet on the left side of the sandbox. His eyes gleamed at his creation as his hands playfully scattered sand in piles around the banks of his new little handmade river. Water running in such abundance.

I finished the book, got up, and called over my shoulder that I was heading inside to make dinner.

As I set the book down on the kitchen counter and stared at it, I thought of Uncle’s words to Salva: “One step at a time . . . one day at a time. Just today—just this day to get through.”

Silently, I filled a saucepan with water, flipped on the burner, measured rice. I grabbed a large bag of carrots from the fridge, placed them on the cutting board, and stared out the window, mulling over what I’d just read.

Crocodile attacks. Violence. Hunger. Loneliness.


The book filled me with sorrow and, at some points, fear—but it also filled me with hope. Triumph, even. It left me with the satisfying knowledge that good always triumphs over evil, even when it’s hard to see. That the human spirit can be bent but not completely broken—that the hardships lived out by Salva in 1985 could indeed be redeemed.

I didn’t hear Andy come in from work. Didn’t notice he was there, in fact, until he dropped a kiss on my cheek and nudged me out of the way so he could wash his hands in the sink.

“Gee, what’s up with you?” he asked as he picked up the knife and took over chopping vegetables.

I couldn’t answer. For the life of me, I couldn’t find the words. I wiped a tear from the corner of my eye, felt my throat constrict, and weakly pointed to the book sitting on the edge of the counter in our suburban American home.

The book had altered me. One step at a time . . . one day at a time . . .

A book can reach us where a news report cannot. It’s not when we hear a summary on the news of what’s happening in the Middle East that our heart catches fire. It’s when we hear the story of one person—one man, one woman, one child. It’s when we dig out the thorn in Nya’s foot, journey with her for hours in the stifling African sun, experience her loneliness and her fear. It is then that we feel the human-to-human connection. That’s when our empathy is stirred. That’s when we feel fully human.

We slip on someone else’s shoes for a few minutes or 121 pages, and our spirits are moved. We are never quite the same again.

That is the power of story.

Story awakens us to the beauty and the bedlam of the world around us. It arouses within us a desire for mercy and justice and truth. Story makes us fall a little more in love with the world we live in and the people God made to live here with us.

In her book For the Children’s Sake, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay tells us that, “In literature, perhaps more than through any other art form, we are able to get into another man’s shoes.” It’s so easy for us to cast judgment on others as we read history textbooks, skim Facebook status updates, or scan news blurbs. We are bombarded with messages all day, so it’s no wonder we begin to tune them out. No wonder we find ourselves desensitized, numb, choosing to avoid the gaze of the panhandler we skirt around whenever we’re downtown.

The antidote to that kind of indifference is to cultivate within ourselves a sincere empathy. To live vicariously through the feelings, thoughts, attitudes, and life experiences of another—someone we would otherwise never get to know. The first step is to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

That’s what transformed me on a late summer afternoon when I finished A Long Walk to Water. It was as if I were trekking through the African desert myself, wondering where I would find safety, longing for just a swallow of cool water. It was only by living vicariously through the story of another—of a completely made up person, in Nya’s case—that woke me up to loving the real-life people in the world around me.

Taken from The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie. Copyright © 2018 by Sarah Mackenzie. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.


Congratulations to our giveaway winners: Faye Annette Johnson-Jones, Ellen & Kathie Monroe!

Sarah Mackenzie is the author of the best-selling book, Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace and a popular speaker at national conferences. Sarah lives in the Inland Northwest with her husband Andrew, where they homeschool their six kids (including identical twin boys).



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Comments 121

  1. I would love sharing this book with
    my grandchildren! What a meaningful way to help plant the seeds of God’s Truth, His Word & God’s Great & Awesome Love for us into their hearts! Thank you for this chance to win your book. I cannot afford to purchase any of the GIG’S WONDERFUL BOOKS & I am Disabled and on a fixed income. I struggle financially literally have trouble keeping toilet tissue in my home.. .I struggle physically with severe health issues due to the side effects from radiation & chemotherapy & surgeries. I have many doctors and God has used them to literally save my life SEVERAL times. I am so SO BLESSED. I just celebrated my life of 8 years cancer-free! Thank You Jesus!!! I just DEVOUR all the GIG”S & PROVERBS 31 Devotionals and BOOKS I can get my hands on. You ladies are awesome! Thank you for answering God’s call in your life and sharing your gifts with me. God bless you all and your loved ones.

  2. I look forward to buying books for my grandkids and greatgrandkids. I’m moving to Michigan to be near my kids after my husband’s passing. I live in florida now, and will be on a road trip with my daughter Friday. sincerely yours, darlene

  3. What a powerful reminder that we all need a bit more empathy. Walking in someone else’s shoes is a gift very few of us choose to unwrap on a daily basis. After drying my tears from reading this, I will do my best to improve not only my daily choices in this area, but set the example for my young daughter to do the same!

  4. I too like you was sucker-punched when I read Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water, The novel that tells the story of the Sudanese boy one of the lost boys of Sudan. And the story of Nya, who spends eight hours each and every day trudging through the dusty heat to gather two jugs of water for her family.
    Nya, home for just long enough to eat, she would now make the second trip to the pond. To the pond and back-nearly a full day of walking altogether. This was Nya’s daily routine. Daily. Every single day.

    I was so driven to do something to help raise funds for water that when World Vision came to our church to help us build a team to raise funds for Water in areas in Africa. These funds would bring clean water that frees children from deadly disease and liberate children from a life spent walking gathering dirty water. It restores health and opens the door to education, a promising future, and a full life—the kind of life God intends.

    Well, if you knew me then you know that I can’t run because I have MS. But I can walk with a brace.. So I trained May – October of 2017 so I could walk the 2017 half-Marathon (13.1 miles)! for World Vision on October 15th. The thought of this was a little overwhelming). I had botox injections to the muscles in my affected leg (R) to relax the muscles and reduce spasms, PT, and Aquatic Therapy, I did Tai Chi, and walked many miles a day (that is most days).
    I also wanted train to this extent so I would be able to stay out of a wheelchair for a longer time.

    What brings me joy in walking 13.1 miles for clean water is knowing that my Church family, my family and friends worked together to help me exceed my goal of $3500 to raise $3,945!!!

    Indeed, reading stories of another persons life journey can motivate us to help make a difference. Thank you for posting an excerpt of Sarah MacKenzies new book.

  5. Reading books is awesome. This story touched me. Thank you. I agree that books are a great way to walk in another shoes.

  6. Oh to bring back the joy of reading in this lost age of modern technology! Not that it’s all bad, but how beautiful to remind the next generation about the beauty, empathy and importance of family reading. If I win, this book is for my son/family… He has a two year old and one on the way and I’d love to share this “lost art” with them!

  7. This touched my heart and dropped into my spirit in a powerful way- thank you! I have been working on writing my own story down for a long time, and I get distracted and fearful that it’s a waste of my time. This reminded me of the power of allowing someone to step into my experience, to walk a mile in my shoes, and how that can help even one person understand something in a way they might not have otherwise. This brought me to tears. Thank you!

  8. Oh gravy! I would love to read this book and even read it aloud to my teenage children and then pass it on to other preteens, etc.

  9. Just reading the part that was presented makes me think about how much we take for granted in our every day life. How much we take for granted God’s gifts to us and His grace. The fact that He gives up what we need without even thinking about it as long as we trust in Him. Thank you for allowing us a glimpse into the life of someone that is determined without even thinking.

  10. Wonderful story of how reading about another person’s journey moves us as human beings to see the world differently. If selected, I would like to make this book a gift to a young woman raising a young daughter by herself.

  11. I have missed the days when my kids were younger, and we snuggled together with bedtime stories, and I have been praying for a way to stay close to my youngest, as You Tube has become her preferred way to spend free time. I am excited to read this book, and hope it opens up a new channel for “togetherness” for us!

  12. Well let’s see… what a day for me. Taking care of my sweet 89 years young Mom and just now I’m able to take this time to say I’D love a copy. Thank you so much for the giveaways. God Bless each and everyone!

  13. O wow. That is really true. As I read this I was remembering that yesterday when I went to shop with my husband I saw a young lady with a post card (Homeless…)
    I begin to say Oh my God like as was feeling her condition means compassion. And I talked to my husband Oh that was Jesus felt when He saw the poor, sick people in His time in the earth. When we felt that we begin to be more thankful to God and tell our kids the same. Thank you for sharing this. Blessings! I want the book.

  14. This sounds like it could be a life changing book not just for me but for our grandkids. I know I don’t really realize the hardships other countries go through for the things we take for granted.

  15. It is always so humbling whenever we are exposed to the realities of others lives. Gratitude shouldn’t be so hard for us.

  16. When I feel down because of the disappointments of health issues, thinking of what I would like to have (material, etc). It often comes to me the hardships of others. We do not have to think too long to know that many in this world have much less in many ways! I look out the window , there is the humming bird, daffodils in bloom, beautiful sky and yes water, heat, electricity, etc. I am blessed, may I always find a way to reach out to those in need.

  17. Sarah’s first book is one I prioritize before the beginning of each school year. So much true and goodness inside the covers. I’m positive she shares a plethora of knowledge within these pages too.

  18. Thanks for the chance to win! I enjoy Sarah’s work and love her point above about empathy as a powerful motivator, much needed in today’s world. Let us be twice as empathetic with our actions than with our words, Jesus!

  19. We are going to South Africa next month, where the water is being rationed due to drought. The excerpt from this book hits me where i live, and I will soon be able to see its effects! Very moving!
    Also woukd like to read this to my grandsons.

  20. This has just really grabbed at my heart. We have really no idea what it’s like to live in their shoes. Unless we as Americans turn back and repent to God this could be us walking for 8hours to just find water.

  21. When I worked as an RN & we got a prisoner admitted, no one wanted to care for him; but they all wanted to know “What did they do?”. To which I always replied,”they got caught, & since they didn’t have enough money to buy their way out, they were imprisoned.”
    Whether or not we get caught, we are all guilty of sin. No amount of money can buy us out of the price sin demands, eternal separation from God then being punished for our sins. Oh but Christ Jesus paid the price with his own pure life offered as our sacrifice. Accepting His sacrifice we are free forever to live in God’s presence debt 𝗙𝗥𝗘𝗘 & eternity with no punishment. Happy Easter & all glory to God.

  22. I also am aware of the water crisis. I have two small granddaughters, they have ALL they need and almost all of their wishes fulfilled, I want them to be aware that they are so Blessed!!! I’d love to read this book to them over, and over, and over, to teach them empathy for others. To teach them to find a cause they can support, a cause that touches their little hearts (and their Gram’s big heart)!

  23. Has me intrigued as to how I engage my 11 year old back into reading. We use to read out loud when he was younger but age and life has gotten in the way.

  24. I love to read aloud and watch the audience get lost in the story. Also if you do it in classrooms and read a chapter a day then the students can’t wait to hear what happens next.

  25. Reading aloud to our kids makes things come alive and helps us make sense of how to handle every day things in our world – one step a time -one day at a time.

  26. I really enjoyed the peek into your book! I love the statement: “We slip on someone else’s shoes for a few minutes or 121 pages, and our spirits are moved. We are never quite the same again.” I feel if we took the time to put ourselves in another’s shoes we would be much more kind and patient with others. Often we are too selfish to remember that we don’t know what is going on in other people’s lives and we react to them in a negative or uncaring way.

    I also believe in taking “one step at a time/one day at a time”. I am in recovery and have to remind myself to take ‘baby steps’ and ‘make the next right decision’. Patience with ourselves and our situations is key. But, most importantly trusting that God has good plans for us – life won’t always be easy but, we are never alone!

    I would love to read the rest of your book – the section I read so far was so wonderfully descriptive. It’s definitely a book I will tell others to check out!

  27. Just yesterday this crisis was introduced to me for the first time. It’s not a coincidence that I would be faced with this again the very next day. My heart is definitely being tugged on….praise to God!

  28. I remember being drawn into a story like you have been with this one…the story I was reading was “The Hiding Place”, and shortly after the beginning, I felt as if I became Corrie Ten Boom each time I opened the book.

    Reading out loud can be a powerful educational tool. I took to reading out loud to each of my 3 children at six months of age and continued reading out loud to them well into the middle school years.

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  29. Very powerful. It makes me look at my life and what can I do to help someone. I may not be able to go to Sudan and bring everyone water, but I can donate my time and help out at shelters, food pantries, etc.

  30. Thank you for sharing this, I will be purchasing the book and reading it with my 12 year old granddaughter. I know she will truly relate and love this book.

  31. Wow! The way she tells the story, I am also walking in the shoes of Salvo and Nya. How I would love to read the rest of this story and share it with my grandchildren.

  32. Thank you so much for the opportunity for a chance to win this book. God is so good and what He is doing all around the world in his people. There is a mighty move coming and i’m thankful to be a part.

  33. Reading this excerpt touched me in a powerful way. As a Christian, Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother, Retired Teacher, Stephen Minister, Youth Small Group Leader, Prayer Warrior, I am committed to continuing Jesus’ Mission to Transform the World.

  34. I’ve never read a more powerful excerpt before. I could feel her emotions!
    I would love to read the rest.

  35. Amazing how something can stir your soul and move you to tears but it happens. God made us that way though and I’m thankful because I belive it reminds us that we’re human. Vulnerable at times, to see what He wants us to see and feel what others feel, to really grasp the reality of things we may never go through. Life isn’t always easy, sometimes it’s very hard, mine hasn’t been easy but I thank God that He’s been there for me and kept me from falling down and to not stay down, to get back up and giving me HOPE.

  36. Good Morning!

    I can’t wait to read this book…I’ve ordered one for me and one for a friend already … I will share the other if I win a copy.

    God’s blessings to y’all!!!

  37. Reading opens up so many worlds to us. I actually step into those worlds when I read. I think that is why I love it so much!

  38. I have a huge passion for Sudan and it’s people! I’m VERY interested in this book and it would be GREAT as a read-aloud for our family! (13 year-old daughter, 10 year-old son)

  39. If I win a copy I would gift it to a friend. I plan to purchase this book. I encourage others to purchase this book also.

  40. I can’t wait to read it!! Africa is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. Our son is a missionary and has been to many places in Africa.

  41. Wow! First of all, I want to read that book she mentioned! Secondly, I never Thought about how much we are blessed with things such as clean water. It’s so readily available to us that we take it for granted. THANK YOU GOD FOR PROVIDING US WITH ACCESS TO CLEAN WATER! Great devotional!

  42. My 12 year old daughter read the book, “The Long Walk Home” in her English class in school. Her teacher gave each child the opportunity to create a week long project inspired by the book and required they journal about the experience. For one week, she walked to the creek behind our home each morning and filled up a gallon jug of water. In exchange for each gallon of creek water she carried home, I gave her an equal amount of clean spring water for her to use for all her personal care water use: bathing, washing her hands, face, & hair, etc. This project gave her a sense of the challenges of the characters in the book, along with a deep appreciation of how blessed she was to have running, hot water so easily available to her. She truly saw how precious this gift of clean water was. Watching her go thru this experience filled me with deep gratitude for her teacher and the school she attends in how and what they are teaching the young children in their care. Blessings!

  43. I am the same way. When I read a book about someone’s life it provides me with the opportunity to see outside of my little world. To put myself in their place and get a glimpse of what they must be going through. By doing that I begin to appreciate what I have more and I also then can bring awareness to others. Books whether we admit it or not changes us and how we see the world outside of ourselves. I would love to win this book, to read it, and then share it with others.

  44. Reading a book is the same for me….I feel the characters of a books feelings much more when I read it then get bulbs on news media!! The concept of renewing strength to get through one day at a time is so beneficial for all of us to remember…ask for God to lead your way every morning!! Would love to win this book to share with my very privileged grandchildren!!

  45. This is a reminder of how richly God has blessed us and a call to those of us who are called Christians to be the hands and feet of Christ. Sounds like a book we all need to read ……..

  46. Walk a mile in my shoes is so easily said. But how many of us really understand what another person is feeling unless we have had similar experiences. We can only imagine what it feels like to not have parents to care for your basic needs. To need water even a sip from an unclean cup just to wet your tongue which is probably dry from the hot climate. To wear the same dirty raggedy smelly clothes and not have a place to wash them. We take all these things for granted. But God is so faithful to inform us of these things by bringing people to us through novels such as the one mentioned. Perhaps by God’s grace we will become more sensitive and compassionate toward those in these conditions. And add grace by giving of ourselves with a smile , a nod , or when possible money. Thanks for this article. God bless!

  47. I can so relate to finding yourself walking in another’s shoes as I read YOUR story. That would be me with tears streaming down my cheeks, unable to speak. You are so right…when we meet another individual through a good story, it becomes personal. Thank you for sharing.

  48. It is amazing how stories can transform our mindset. I am a avid reader, it is one of my favorite pass times. My youngest now will make stories along with the pictures. Those stories are oh so adorable. I am so glad I can record his sessions because I am so forgetful. I don’t want to forget. Thank you for that reminder though that we are to love on those around us. God has awoken me recently to love on strangers I am shy by nature. I know God is greater.

  49. Living in Africa I felt like you were seeing what we see daily. the thorns you spoke of is a reality. one day a child had a thorn in her foot. Not having a tweezer on hand I had no idea how to get it out. An older child took another thorn and dug it out. I was amazed!
    water is truly another issue. Many of the woman use what we would call 5 gallon plastic jugs. they carry one and one is on their head as they head to their homes. yes, a daily ritual. Through what we call hardship they call their daily needs. We praise God that He has allowed us to live in such a beautiful land!

  50. My grandmother read aloud to my mom, her siblings and also my grandfather. When we were little my mom read to my sister and me when our brother took an afternoon nap. I still love to have someone read to me. Our son likes to read the news that he thinks will interest me. I enjoy and love books yet today.

  51. Books indeed open our minds to the perils and the possibilities of life. I’m a book lover who has read to my children, who are also avid readers. My son and daughter-in-love regularly read to my granddaughters, as do I. The written word is an art that should be passed on lest we lose all contact with our roots, our hope for the future, and maybe our humanity.

  52. Wow! That was very inspiring! I never really thought why reading a book made me so connected because when I would read certain books I really did feel like I was in their shoes! I look forward to the great read🙂

  53. What an amazing book!! I didn’t want to excerpt to end. Our family is a group of readers, and yes, characters in a story move us more than any movie, news story, social media.

  54. I yearn to read a book that I can’t put down. As a single mom of grown children and a lost connection with them, I would love to read this book to inspire me as a new Christian. I want to have same experience as Sara.

    Thank you
    Yvonne Torres

  55. This morning’s excerpt from A Long Walk to Water touched me on several levels. First, it reminded me of the power of perseverance: taking the next little step forward despite pain, weariness, or discouragement. I especially needed this reminder today. Second, it underscored how our individual stories can create empathy and connectedness. Accordingly, I pray for a heart of compassion that will draw out and listen to others’ stories. Third and last, it put me briefly in the shoes of a young girl who spends eight hours every day trudging through hot, dusty and dangerous wilderness to get 2 jugs of water so her family can survive. How easy it is to take clean, running and abundant water for granted in most of the US. Let me not forget to daily give thanks for water, food, electricity and other “basics” of my lifestyle which the majority of the world considers luxuries.

  56. I LOVE TO READ and I agree that only thru literature are you able to become a part of what is going on. Thank you for the chance to win what I’m sure is. WONDERFUL read!!!!


  58. As a homeschooling Momma, this excerpt and purpose resounds with me! Daily seeking to give “Living Water” to my children, I turn to resources that are not digital so that they may encounter the emotion and beauty of words. Thank you for your courageous heart!

  59. In 2016 I went on a mission trip to Haiti. I came back to America not de-sensitized to world problems for a few months. It was probably one of the toughest transitions I’ve ever had. This reminded me of just how de-sensitized I’ve become again. That makes me sad.

  60. Very interesting and touching. In the space of a few poignant words the impact on a persons life is amazing. Lots of food for thought..

  61. What a cherished gift to receive. I look forward in getting lost and taking into your journey thru trials of tribulation. We all have them, seeing how God seen you thru them. Be blessed in all you do.

  62. Thank you! “The book filled me with sorrow and, at some points, fear—but it also filled me with hope. Triumph, even. It left me with the satisfying knowledge that good always triumphs over evil, even when it’s hard to see. That the human spirit can be bent but not completely broken.”

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