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BOOKWORM: Book about Earth Day is worth picking up

Don’t you just hate seeing trash on the street?

Every time you notice someone has been careless with a can or food wrapper or some bit of garbage, it really irritates you. You feel like you have to go pick it up because we only have one Earth and you gotta live here, too, right?

You’re a kid who celebrates Earth Day every year by picking up trash, planting trees and doing what’s environmentally good. But Earth Day wasn’t just something that happened. Somebody had to start it. In the new book “Gaylord Nelson: Champion for Our Earth” by Sheila Terman Cohen, you’ll read about one man who had a goal for the Earth.

Nelson was born in Wisconsin, in a town where everybody knew everybody else. People remembered him as a prankster and a fun-lover; in fact, his nickname was “Happy” because he always seemed to have a smile on his face.

One of the things the youngster loved was exploring the areas outside of town. He enjoyed fishing in clear lakes near his home and he was fascinated with nature. His parents, both activists for women’s and civil rights, encouraged him to find what interested him.

When he was 10 years old, Nelson decided that politics interested him most and he told his father that he wanted to be a senator when he grew up.

Many years later, after college and time in the Army, Nelson finally realized his dream and became first a Wisconsin state senator, then governor of the state, then a U.S. senator. During this time, he never forgot about his passion for the outdoors. While in Washington, he decided to act.

Gaylord helped preserve thousands of miles of land for hiking trails. He worked to ban DDT, a chemical that’s harmful to the environment. He told anyone who would listen that pollution was bad for the Earth. But it wasn’t enough for him.

On April 22, 1970, schools, campuses and organizations around the U.S. celebrated Gaylord Nelson’s first Earth Day. More than 20 million people cleaned up, planted trees and learned about helping the Earth. Then, on April 22, 1990, 141 nations around the world celebrated World Earth Day. Gaylord Nelson had reached his goal.

During this entire month – and perhaps always – your child’s attention turns to ecology and taking care of the environment. Give him or her the chance to see where it all started by sharing this surprisingly lively biography.

Cohen writes of Nelson’s years in World War II, his championing of civil rights, his fight for an early end to the Vietnam War and his concern for environmental issues. She also includes personal stories about Nelson and a lot of cultural references that will help kids put Gaylord Nelson’s story and his legacy into perspective.

Because of the glossary and helpful footnotes, “Gaylord Nelson: Champion for Our Earth” is a great book for kids in fifth through ninth grade. For them, this down-to-earth book is one to pick up.

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