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Quick Pick: Riparia’s River by Michael J. Caduto and Olga Pastuchiv

Think of your favorite place on earth. Is it your home? An amusement park? A favorite beach? Now, imagine how you would feel if that place was destroyed by something that could have been prevented. Would you do all that you could to help turn your favorite place back into something beautiful?

By Claire Culton, STEM Read Intern

Think of your favorite place on earth. Is it your home? An amusement park? A favorite beach? Now, imagine how you would feel if that place was destroyed by something that could have been prevented. Would you do all that you could to help turn your favorite place back into something beautiful?

In Michael J. Caduto’s award-winning children’s book Riparia’s Riverfour young friends decide to do whatever it takes to clean their favorite swimming hole when they find it badly polluted. The kids are stunned and saddened to discover a place they once enjoyed so much ruined, but their melancholy is soon replaced by curiosity as they venture up the river to find the source of the pollution. Along their journey, they encounter a mysterious, yet kind, woman named Riparia. She warns the children about the dangers of a sick river and also teaches them about the different wildlife that thrive off the river when it’s healthy. She shows them the causes of the pollution and teaches them the many ways that they can come together and save the place they love.

Caduto’s book won the Skipping Stones Award for its outstanding appreciation of nature. With vivid illustrations and detailed descriptions about the different wildlife in and around the river, this book presents a plethora of learning opportunities for young readers.

Teachers could take students out to a local river or stream and have children carefully search for wildlife that relies on healthy water. The more species found, the more children can come to appreciate how many plants and animals use their local river for habitation. Children could also keep a drawing journal and document the animals they find similar to how Caduto lists the animals drawn throughout the book. Once back at school, have them do more research on each creature later.

For more advanced classes, conduct simple science experiments involving water cleanup. For example, take a bucket of clean water and have the kids take a moment to examine it. Then, have students add an external contaminant such as soil, natural debris, trash, or cooking oil. Next, task the children with cleaning out the water bucket and try to return the water to its original state. Students will soon discover that while it might be easier to pick out big chunks of trash, it’s next to impossible to filter out all of the soil and oils from the water and return it to its original state. This will urge students to be cognizant of their water use and what it takes to clean up pollution.

In Riparia’s River by Michael J. Caduto, the cleanup starts with a few inspired kids looking to do some good for their own personal experience. In the end, several community members come together over a long period of time to restore the river back to a beautifully healthy state. Riparia’s lessons are ones that can transcend the book and be brought to the classroom. With the help of enthusiastic teachers and students, a lot of good can be done around our own favorite outdoor escapes!