A new storybook encourages children to love and care for our rivers

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In line with the idiom ‘strike the iron while it’s hot”, Anak Rimba Books seeks to instill love and care for rivers among children via what they do best; developing a children’s storybook. The newly developed river awareness storybook entitled “A River for My Family” tells a compelling story of a dragonfly losing it’s home and playground – the river – due to river pollution. 

Anak Rimba Books aims to engage children on river care awareness in a child-friendly and memorable way. So, they collaborated with Global Environment Centre (GEC) under the National River Care Fund (NRCF) – Small Grant Programme to develop the storybook equipped with simple facts and open-ended questions to the kids about rivers at the end of the book.

Dr K Kalithasan, Manager of River Care Programme from GEC said, “We believe that young children are the seed to building awareness in river conservation. They absorb new concepts quickly resulting in better acceptance and understanding towards the importance of environmental issues by painting (or in path) the right picture about river care. Hence, it is important to instill such awareness among young children since the early age to promote river care civil society. Therefore, GEC awarded Anak Rimba Books a total of RM10,000 grant under the NRCF programme to develop the book.”

He further commented that, “To further realize the goal, a ToT specializing in storytelling was conducted on the 9th November 2019 open to GEC’s RIVER Rangers, kindergarten and primary school teachers as well as parents using the storybook as the basis for the training. Participants were trained on how to engage audience through storytelling technique including how to use the kits that come with the storybook. They were empowered to train other trainees on storytelling as well as river health assessment through biological biomonitoring at a nearby stream to understand more about the riverine ecosystem- ‘living river’ concept.”

Abyan Junus-Nishizawa and Farah Landemaine, authors of A River for My Family and founders of Anak Rimba Books, both have a shared interest in promoting creative content which focuses on endangered animals and environmental conservation. Through the storybook and the training event, they hope to train the participants to be an effective storyteller so that awareness among children about the importance of clean river can spread.

The storybook tells a story of a dragonfly named Popi finding a new home as its family had to move out of the river because it is getting dirtier day by day, due to human’s intervention at river address.

Abyan Junus-Nishizawa who was seen training the participants in storytelling at Taman Persekutuan Lembah Kiara to 15 GEC’s RIVER Rangers, teachers and parents said “We decided to make a dragonfly as the protagonist of this storybook because they are the biological indicator of clean rivers. They only live above clean water and if the water turns murky or polluted, it can drive them away and lead to local extinction. Besides that, the dragonfly is also part of GEC’s RIVER Ranger logo as it is a biological indicator of river cleanliness.” 

NRCF is a programme that aims to encourage community-driven initiatives who take ownership and lead in river care activities. Since its establishment in 2015, the Small Grant Programme which has entered Cycle 6 has engaged 35 community groups/organisations, supporting actions on over 20 rivers across Malaysia and channelling over RM250,000 to 40 river rehabilitation and conservation activities, events and trainings.