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Don't Bathe in the Holy River, Bapu!

Don't Bathe in the Holy River, Bapu!
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 3 to 5
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   4.85

     challenging words:    once-lovely, scruffy, vegetation, wiry, crinkly, purify, longing, scatter, chubby, sacred, lower, wrinkled, scientist, ashes, harmful, water
     content words:    Ganges River, Himalaya Mountains, Indian Ocean

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Don't Bathe in the Holy River, Bapu!
By Colleen Messina

1     Caption: People drinking water from the river Ganges during a ceremony in 2005.
2     Ramu and his grandfather picked their way down the hard wet steps. The swirling river water awaited them. Ramu usually looked forward to visiting the river. But today Ramu was worried. His grandfather, who was growing more forgetful as his hair turned whiter, may have forgotten his mother's message.
3     "Remember, no more bathing in the river, Bapu!" she called after them as they left their tiny house. Bapu was her loving nickname for her father. Ramu also called the old man Bapu.
4     Ramu knew that his mother had heard that their dazzling holy river, the Ganges, was more polluted than ever. The river that Indians thought could purify sin was very dirty now. Ramu's grandfather, like many Hindus, loved to bathe in its waters. He stepped down the concrete steps each day to visit the Ganges. He thought of the river as a goddess.
5     "Why do you think that the Ganges River is a goddess, Bapu?" Ramu had asked one day as they dangled their brown legs into the brown water.
6     Even though their legs were both brown, they looked very different. One pair was spindly, wiry, and wrinkled. The other pair was chubby, smooth, and dimpled. Can you guess which legs belonged to 10-year-old Ramu?
7     "In an ancient Indian myth, the Ganges River used to be in heaven," said the old man. "A king here on Earth needed help. His relatives had perished in a fire. He wanted the river to purify their ashes. Then his loved ones could get to heaven. The river came down and helped the king's relatives."
8     "So that is why people scatter ashes on the water?" asked Ramu. He had seen this custom done many times.

Paragraphs 9 to 17:
For the complete story with questions: click here for printable

Extended Activities:

1.  Research one type of pesticide that farmers use to help their crops grow. You can use your library or the Internet if you have your parents' permission. What type of insects does the pesticide affect? Does it have any known harmful effects on people or animals?

2.  Organic produce is grown without using chemicals and pesticides. The next time you are at the supermarket, compare prices for three types of fruits and vegetables, choosing an organic form and a non-organic form of each. Write down what you learned, and also write about whether you feel it is worth it to buy organic produce. Give two reasons for your opinion.

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