Apr 28, 2016

Saving the Planet: One Kid at a Time

So, EARTH DAY has come and gone. Did you participate in some way? Don't think of this message as "too late" or overdue.  If for any reason you feel you missed out, take a minute to consider this from their website, earthday.org:

"The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans 
from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching 
the modern environmental movement."
Crickhollow Books, 2015

The point is, designating a particular day to serve in some way or just to think about the importance of protecting and preserving every aspect of this remarkable planet that we all call home misses the mission. The actual point of EARTH DAY is to raise awareness, activate change, and encourage every resident of our planet to "wake up and save the roses", so to speak.
Every day.
Day after day.
Year after year. 

I wrote about the first in a series of nonfiction photojournalism picture books by Cathleen Burnham in a previous post. 
DOYLI TO THE RESCUE: SAVING BABY MONKEYS IN THE AMAZON, is the first in the series and documents the preteen island girl who helps rescue, rehabilitate and restore baby monkeys. The efforts of Doyli and her family at home and in the marketplace save baby primates from being sold as food or pets or finding other unknown and illegal fates. 

Crickhollow Books, 2016
In the second book of the series an entire island village of young people comprise the self-named TORTUGA SQUAD: Kids Saving Sea Turtles in Costa Rica. Their tiny island on the Caribbean coast is the instinctive nesting site for endangered sea turtles, leatherbacks. 

During nesting season the massive mother turtles swim ashore, crawl up onto the sand beaches, dig a hole and desposit 80-100 soft-shelled eggs, using their flipper legs to bury the eggs before returning to sea. From that point forward their survival has no protection from nature.
Dogs could dig up and eat the eggs, sea birds and other animals could snatch and eat them on their way to the sea after hatching. Once in the water they need to make it through rough waves and over the shallow reef to reach the deeper waters where they can hide among sea plants before continuing to the open ocean.

Despite the odds nature has stacked against them, the species has survived for millennia. Then the most fearful predators of all created even greater dangers, threatening them with extinction. Humans flip the enormous mothers onto their backs, leaving them helpless and able to be eaten or sold for food in the marketplace. Poachers  gather the eggs to eat or sell. Laws against this are generally ignored, and the species is facing extinction.

Until... kids on the island learned about what was happening and stepped up to help. Photojournalist Burnham's  story and images reveal the details of how these island kids have organized themselves into a rescue and protection squad, offering the tortuga (turtles) their best chance at survival.

Burnham considers her books "seed stories", planting ideas and confidence in young readers that they have the power to make significant and planet-changing differences in their own neighborhoods. Her organization, WAKA!, is the World Association of Kids and Animals. Her website blog posts about her recent and current world travels, study guides for the books, and contact information for those with questions and stories to share. 

This recent series and these engaged, enthusiastic young people are the epitome of the mission of EARTH DAY Organization. Yes, the recent international PARIS CLIMATE ACCORDS and the many laws passed by individual nations are necessary and important changes, too, and we celebrate these accomplishments. The Tortuga Squad's awareness of the protective laws give them standing in the community for their efforts within the community. But without their on-the-ground vigilance makes the difference in the survival of a species. 

With compelling text, remarkable photography, picture captions and scientific diagrams, this nonfiction picture book offers readers an ideal opportunity. Yes, they can read in the content areas of science and social studies and engage with information text. But in this case  the contents reflect lives in many ways similar to their own, but from half a world away.

How cool is that? 
Share this book with a young reader and find out for yourselves.
And pick one habit you can change, starting today. 
That might just be finding and sharing books like these with young readers.

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