As a young girl, the Amazon rainforest was not on my bucket list of places that I wanted to visit in my home country. I wrongly thought it was another area of my country filled with a bunch of trees with just different shades of green.
Since I already lived surrounded with what it felt like a gazillion of banana trees, driving 10 hours to see “la Amazonía” was not too appealing to me.
Thankfully, this drastically changed during the summer of my junior year in high school when the family of one of my girlfriends invited me to join their family on a trip to Pastaza, a province in Ecuador located in the eastern of the Amazon jungle.
At the beginning I was more excited about the adventure of being with my friend but this changed the minute that I stepped into the Amazon jungle.
It is impressive how the Amazon rainforest can overwhelm you with its beauty, glory and energy. And this is because la Amazonía amazingly touches every part of your being.
The sight of the vast forest, the smell of the delicious flowers, the unfamiliar sounds of an array of animals, all of that, steals your heart and challenges you to be a new person.
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The first thing we did after arriving was to hike inside the jungle for a three hour tour. During our hike deep inside the jungle, the heavy foliage makes it dark and challenging to see well, my friend’s seven-year old sister slipped getting a minor scratch on her right knee.
Our guide, a local of the area, hurried applying some of the medicine that he was carrying in his first aid bag. But he also graciously showed us another alternative to ease the pain using only leaves!
On that trip I learned that only 1% of the plants found in the rainforest have been tested for medicinal properties. Most of our food (rice, corn, chocolate, bananas, black pepper, pineapple and other) originally comes from the Amazon rainforest.
I also learned that it’s the home of many indigenous groups and more than 40,000 plant species, 2.5 million different insects, 1,300 bird species, 3,000 different types of fish and 430 mammals.
Unfortunately, governments are not doing everything they can to preserve this magical place. For example, only a few months ago, there were several devastating oil spills in the Peruvian Amazon.
This is why organizations like The Leonardo Di Caprio Foundation are so important to raise their voice against deforestation and oil spills. Last year, I got excited when I heard that the Titanic superstar was going to donate $3.4 million to the indigenous groups in the Ecuadorian Amazon who have been affected by petroleum extraction.
The financial help is very appreciated and necessary, but another important way to preserve the Amazon rainforest is through education.
Our children need to learn from us about the importance of this beautiful part of our world that covers a lot of South America. And, the following children’s books are great resources to get you started.
7 Children’s Books about the Amazon Rainforest
Verde fue mi selva (Spanish)
This popular book by Ecuadorian writer, Edna Iturralde, is a set of fascinating stories for children that provides an accurate portrayal of the Amazon indigenous groups of Ecuador and their way of life. It is a “Skipping Stones Honor Award Winner” for ethnic and intercultural diversity in the United States.
Afternoon on the Amazon (Magic Tree House, No. 6)
The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest
DK Eyewitness Books: The Amazon
Lost on the Amazon (Choose Your Own Adventure 9)
Encantado: Pink Dolphin of the Amazon
I strongly believe that the commitment to preserve the Amazon can start from reading a book. You don’t have to hike through the jungle, swim with pink dolphins or take a cruise on the Amazon river, to fell in love with this place. Your heart will get stolen through the pages of a book, anyway.