A couple of years ago I came across an old well thumbed copy of the Observer book of wild flowers. In the digital age its easy to forget the power and wonder of a tactile thing such a book.
As a kid I would spend hours looking in books to find out more about the world around me. One of my daughter’s favourite books, which is just about holding together, is a children’s encyclopedia. Its something she goes back to time and time again.
Recently we were sent a 1973 copy of booklet called ‘Spotter in the country’. It might look a little bit dated now but the words that jump out of the pages are all about inspiration, encouraging observations of nature and importantly having fun. Something which can be easily overlooked is that spending time in the natural world is one big adventure with lots of fun and constantly discovering new things.
These simple spotters guides have played such an important part in connecting generations of kids to the natural world. One of our naturalists at work came in with copies of a ladybird guides to the four seasons in four beautifully illustrated books. They told a wonderful story of nature through the seasons with barely a fact in sight. They’ll be out of print now but it feels as though it’s time for a revival.
And don’t forget that these are the books that have inspired the wonderful group of writers penning such fantastic poetry and prose about nature.
The premise of these often pocket sized books was about presenting information simply. Taking these books on days out or flicking through the pages to identify a plant or butterfly was all part of the experience of learning about wildlife. The words used were accessible and they took you on a journey of learning without realising it.
Turn on a computer or visit a local bookshop and the choice of guides to nature is huge. There is a wonderful array of information at our finger tips but kids connection with nature has been in decline for the last 30 years.
I’m worried about the desire to have too much information and too many facts. What is needed is to tell a story about nature, tapping into that innate sense of storytelling which is such a fundamental part of being human. Kids need to be drawn into nature and they have a natural fascination with nature that needs to be unleashed by creating a story related to the wildlife that they see every day.
Wouldn’t it be great if every seven year old in the UK got a copy of a wildlife spotters guide, helping them to identify some common species of trees, plants, birds, insects and mammals.
It would be a story of things they might easily see and a first step into the wonderful world of wildlife, encouraging them to stop, look and listen; and perhaps most importantly talk to their friends about it.
Kids at this age are like sponges, absorbing a huge array of information and I reckon that there would be a real sense of excitement finding out about the trees in a local park or the butterflies in their garden.