Today’s children’s books have lost touch with nature. This is the argument KJ Dell’Antonio makes in a February 29, 2012, New York Times article (http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/29/childrens-books-lose-touch-with-nature/). According to Dell’Antonia, a study led by University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s J. Allen Williams, Jr., found that in the last twenty years natural environments have “all but disappeared” in children’s books.
Alison Stevens, a children’s writer from Lincoln, Neb., calls this a disturbing trend. Writing recently in a LinkedIn forum for children’s writers, Stevens asserts that a growing body of evidence suggests nature plays an important role in childhood development.
“Kids that grow up in nature have stronger immune systems, are calmer, and perform better on standardized test scores,” Stevens says. “Even 20 minutes in nature (e.g., a park) will greatly reduce the symptoms of ADHD.”
Citing two specific examples (http://richardlouv.com/last-child-woods and http://lhhl.illinois.edu/about.htm) supporting the theory that nature play reduces aggression and improves concentration in children, Stevens continues, “(Nature is) not just a pretty thing to look at now and then. It grounds us in who we are and helps us deal with life’s stressors.”
I’m with Stevens. The thought that children today don’t have opportunities for non-structured outdoor play in a safe environment is indeed disturbing. Growing up in Tennessee, my childhood was filled with outdoor play. Since my series of children’s books are based on my childhood, the characters naturally play in the creek and run through the woods just as my brother and I once did. In fact, most of the animal characters in my books are named after the animals that made my childhood rich. Our family really did have a duck named Connie, a blind pony named Grace, a cow named Bossy and a dog named Pepper. Taking care of them and spending lots of time outdoors helped teach me and my brother not only responsibility but to treat animals gently and to take care of the environment.
While children today may have less opportunities for nature play than I did growing up on a small farm in Tennessee, children today can still be involved with the natural world. Here are a few inexpensive ideas:
1. Vist a state or national park in your area. Take a family hike or play in the creek.
2. Plant flowers together.
3. Go camping (in a tent)!
4. Chase butterflies in the spring.
5. Catch fireflies in the summer.
6. Take a walk in the woods in the fall.
7. Visit a farm and cut your own Christmas tree in the winter.
8. Buy a pet.
9. Go horseback riding.
10. Plant a garden.
By finding ways for you and your kids to enjoy nature and to interact with animals, you’ll find, as Stevens suggests, that each member of your family, including yourself, will be more relaxed and better equipped to face the challenges that living in a super-techno-charged world bring.
Copyright 2012. Ann M. Lovell. All rights reserved. For a complete listing of Ann’s children’s books visit her Amazon author page.