Cathleen Burnham is a journalist, a photographer, and a wildlife rehabilitator for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. She has traveled across the globe from Thailand to the Amazon to bring back the stories of the people of remote cultures around the world.
Her stories and photographs have been included many publications, and her first children’s book, A Creek Runs Down My Street, was published in 2006. She is also author of the WAKA (World Association of Kids & Animals) series of books, with five more books in the documentary series to be released in coming months after the first book, Doyli to the Rescue, which kicks off the series with its release on Earth Day (Apriil 22), 2015.
Q: What can the books in the WAKA series teach young readers?
The books teach kids about other cultures – about how different and yet similar we all are. These books can be also used to teach subjects like reading and social studies. There’s cultural learning, language, animal facts, maps, even a little bit of law – when it comes to problems of black-market selling or illegal poaching of endangered animals. Kids can also learn about ways that people in other parts of the world create shelter, the foods that they eat, and other daily aspects of life for youngsters around the world: from pastimes and games to household chores, from school attendance to outdoor education from knowledgeable adults.
Of course, the books teach environmentalism: green living, stewardship of the land, and wildlife conservation.
The facts are all wrapped up in engaging stories. Young readers will learn about other cultures by meeting kids their own age who are having great adventures and leading fulfilling lives.
Q: How can the book inspire young readers from different backgrounds?
The books show kids that are standing up for what’s right, as they work for animal rescue and animal rights. They show how kids can make turn their convictions and character traits – kindness, sharing what little they have, standing up for the weak and defenseless – into a driving force in their lives.
The books show bravery without being reckless with the children’s own well-being.
The books show how kids, even in regions with little financial or technological resources, can find creative ways to contribute to making the world a better place, starting with issues close to their home and close to their hearts. These efforts by young people are important and fruitful.
Kds (and adults) need to realize learn how much “just a kid” or – or just a single person, or a family, or a group of friends – can actually do. We are all deeply responsible for the survival of wild animals around the world. If we do nothing, our modern lifestyles are steadily shrinking wild animal habitat and disturbing the patterns of animal behavior .
But we can all get involved and find ways to help. As kids read about rescue shelters (in Doyli to the Rescue) or beach patrols or monkey bridges (coming in the next books), they can start to think, “Hmmm, that was thought up by a kid.” It might inspire others to start to think, “Maybe I could come up with a good idea to protect animals close to my home.”
Q: Why is the concept of wildlife preservation so important?
Animals are worth championing. Animals aren’t just for our food, clothing, beauty products, or to test medicines that make human lives better. Animals should be afforded the same right to freedom as humans. But in this series of books, this point of view isn’t forced on readers – it’s spiced up by real-life stories of each child’s adventure. Kids learn that we can connect with animals. There’s a whole world of creatures with whom we can develop positive relationships – whether that means rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned wildlife, or just the enjoyment of learning an animal’s behavior through observation. Animals make the world a richer place.
It is my goal to inspire up to commit ourselves to finding ways to keep endangered species alive and help maintain the safety of the ecosystem. We’ve all seen animals suffer, whether in person or via media. It is painful for us all. We often think, “There’s nothing I can do.” You can do something.
Start by reading and learning about some pretty inspiring things kids around the world are doing.
And then ask yourself: What can I do that will make a difference?