Brazil | Short Reads

Brazil is a big country. It covers about half of South America and is home to about half the continent’s people. In fact, only four countries of the world have more land than Brazil: Russia, Canada, China, and the United States. All that area gives Brazil many kinds of landscapes and great natural beauty.

The world’s largest tropical rain forest covers most of northern Brazil. The mighty Amazon River winds through this vast forest. In the northeast, where Brazil bulges into the Atlantic Ocean, the land is cracked and dry. The Brazilian Highlands, a fertile region of hills and plateaus, reaches across the south. Sandy beaches line much of Brazil’s long coastline.


About 192 million people live in Brazil, making it the fifth most populated country in the world. Most people live near the coast in towns and cities, especially in the southeast. That’s where Brazil’s two biggest cities, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, are found.

São Paulo is South America’s largest city, with more than 11 million people. Brazil has numerous other cities with more than 1 million people. Among them are Salvador and Brasília, Brazil’s capital. Brasília, in south central Brazil, is one of the biggest cities in the country’s interior.


The Amazon River is the world’s second longest river, after the Nile in Africa. But the Amazon carries more water than any other river. The area drained by the river is called the Amazon Basin. It covers nearly half of Brazil. Lush, tropical rain forest grows throughout this basin.

Thousands upon thousands of species of plants, birds, reptiles, fish, and mammals live in the Amazon rain forest. If you like insects, this is the place for you! There are at least 70,000 different kinds, and more are being discovered all the time.

Native Americans, such as the Kayapó and the Yanomami, live deep in the rain forest. Some still maintain their traditional ways of life. They live in small villages in the forest without things like electric lights or even running water!

Today, the Amazon rain forest is in trouble. Each year, Brazil loses thousands of square miles of forest. The forest is cleared for wood or burned to open up farmland. These actions threaten the forest and the native people living within it.


Portugal colonized Brazil in the early 1500s. Brazil is the only South American country settled by Portugal. Portuguese settlers soon built large farms, called plantations, to grow sugarcane and other crops. They brought slaves from Africa to work the fields. By the mid-1800s, coffee was Brazil’s most important crop.


Brazil’s early years as a plantation society still affects the country. A small number of people still control most of Brazil’s land and wealth. There is a large gap between rich and poor people in Brazil. Brazil’s cities are famous for their favelas. Favelas are crowded slums where millions of poor people live.


Most Brazilians are descended from three main groups of people: the native people of Brazil, Europeans (mainly Portuguese), and Africans. This blend gives Brazil a unique and varied culture.

The samba is a type of music and dance that comes from Brazil. It developed from the rhythms of African, Native American, and Portuguese music. Capoeira, an art form that combines dance and fighting moves, is another Brazilian tradition. African immigrants brought capoeira to Brazil, where it developed into a uniquely Brazilian art.

Brazilian food is a spicy blend, too. One favorite derived from Africa is acarajé, a fried bean fritter stuffed with peppered shrimp. It’s a specialty from the Bahia region in the northeast. In Rio de Janeiro, you can try feijoada, made from black beans, rice, and meat. In the south, barbecued meat, or churrasco, is a favorite.

Most Brazilians are alike in two things. Almost all Brazilians speak Portuguese. Nearly everyone belongs to the Roman Catholic Church.


Brazilians call Rio de Janeiro the Marvelous City. That’s because of its spectacular setting between the Brazilian Highlands and the Atlantic Ocean.

The city is best seen from the Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado Mountain. The statue was built in 1922 to celebrate 100 years of independence from Portugal. From the statue, almost the whole city is visible. A towering granite rock called Sugar Loaf Mountain rises from Guanabara Bay. The world-famous Copacabana Beach stretches along the ocean.

Every year, Rio hosts one of the world’s biggest parties. It’s called Carnival. It begins on the Friday before Ash Wednesday and lasts for five days before the start of the Christian period of Lent. Carnival is a time of elaborate parades, music, dance, and celebration.


Do you like soccer? Brazilians do. They call it fútbol, and it’s by far the most popular sport. Millions of Brazilians belong to local soccer clubs.

Perhaps the world’s most famous Brazilian is Pelé. Many people consider him the greatest soccer player of all time. By 1970, Pelé helped lead Brazil to three victories in the World Cup, an international soccer tournament.

Brazil continues to be a force in world soccer. In 2002, Brazil won its fifth World Cup, this time led by scoring great Ronaldo.

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Penguins | Short Reads

Penguins | Short Reads

Would you put on your bathing suit and jump into icy water? Would you slide down a snowy hill on your bare stomach? Imagine how cold that would feel! You would freeze. Penguins, however, do this all the time. Penguins swim in cold water. They slide on their bellies over ice and snow.

Bicycles | Short Reads

Bicycles | Short Reads

Riding a bicycle is a great way to get around. Bicycles are quiet, fun to ride, and you don’t need gas or electricity to make them go. You just use the power of your legs!
Bicycles have two wheels. One wheel is in front of the other. You swing your leg over the bike, sit down, and start pedaling.

Mississippi River | Short Reads

Mississippi River | Short Reads

The Mississippi River is the most important river in North America. It provided a major highway for early explorers of North America. Many cities grew up along it. Furs and farm goods traveled from these settlements down the river to markets. Today, more freight travels on the Mississippi than on any other waterway within the continent.

Geronimo | Short Reads

Geronimo | Short Reads

Geronimo was a leader of the Apache Indians. He belonged to an Apache group known as the Chiricahua. In the 1870s, the United States government tried to force the Chiricahua off their homelands and onto reservations. Geronimo fought back.

Plate Tectonics | Short Reads

Plate Tectonics | Short Reads

Stand very still. You may think you are not moving, but the ground may be moving ever so slightly under your feet. The ground you are standing on is part of Earth’s crust. The crust is the solid surface or outer, rocky layer of Earth. Pieces of Earth’s crust are always slowly slipping and sliding around. The idea that pieces of Earth’s crust move is called the theory of plate tectonics.

Orchestra | Short Reads

Orchestra | Short Reads

The sound of an orchestra playing is a thrilling experience. An orchestra is a group of musicians who play musical instruments. Some orchestras have more than 100 musicians. Yet when they play together, the orchestra sounds like one mighty musical instrument.

Gravity | Short Reads

Gravity | Short Reads

Try to jump as high as you can. Bend your knees. Now jump! No matter how hard you try, or how high you jump, you always come back down again.
Something called gravity pulls you back down. Gravity holds you down on Earth. Without gravity, you would fly off into space. You would jump up and just keep on going. That might sound like fun, but you could not live very high up. For one thing, you need to breathe air. The higher you go, the less air there is. You need gravity to keep you down on Earth.

Sheep | Short Reads

Sheep | Short Reads

Remember Mary’s little lamb? It followed her everywhere. Lambs follow their mothers. If a newborn lamb loses its mother, it will form a bond with a human being who adopts it. Just like Mary’s lamb, it will try to tag after its human parent. Lambs are baby sheep.

Socrates | Short Reads

Socrates | Short Reads

What is love? What is truth? What is justice? Socrates, a philosopher in ancient Greece, asked big questions like these and tried to make people think.
Socrates was born in Athens, Greece, in 469 bc. He devoted his life to philosophy. He taught students, made speeches, and debated with anyone who would listen to him.

Bears | Short Reads

Bears | Short Reads

Imagine sticking your nose in the air and sniffing the smell of a hamburger cooking a mile away. Some bears can do just that. Bears have a keen sense of smell. They use this sense to help them find food. Bears are meat eaters, or carnivores. But most bears also eat fruits, nuts, and other foods. Bears live in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. They do not live in Africa, Australia, or Antarctica.

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