During the next 30 days we will be celebrating the wealth of beautiful information books available, and the joys of reading non-fiction for pleasure. This year we hope that some of the books encountered by young readers will encourage them to take a closer look at the world around them, to read and find out more about what they see, and to be inspired to look after and enjoy the natural environment.
A fascinating and very timely article by Robert Macfarlane expresses concerns about our children’s loss of contact with the natural world as technology becomes increasingly central to their lives – a driving force behind The Lost Words, the book he has created with illustrator Jackie Morris, ‘about the magic of naming and nature.’
“When we began,” he writes: “we knew only that we wanted to make a modern-day spell-book for the natural world – a book that might go some small way towards conjuring back the words, names and species that were being lost.”
The sentiment is at the heart of this year’s theme, and many of the books we will be featuring during the month in our series of blogs and on our resources page will hopefully help young readers to build on their knowledge about the natural world and develop their ‘natural literacy’.
Robert Macfarlane’s article also explores some of the classic books for children that feature ‘the magical arts of naming nature’ (including books by Susan Cooper and Alan Garner). I would like to recommend My Family and Other Animals (1956), an autobiographical work by British naturalist Gerald Durrell. As well as being a very readable and funny account of the author’s childhood in Corfu, it demonstrates and celebrates a child’s fascination with the minutiae of the natural world and the desire to understand and find out more. The arrival of a book about insects is a major event for the budding naturalist in the sequel Birds, Beasts and Relatives (1969). Today, we are lucky to have so many fantastic books at our disposal to feed young people’s appetite for knowledge.
While children do not have the unfettered freedom that Gerald Durrell enjoyed back then, there are many activities on the ‘wild side’ that families can enjoy together. Organisations such as The Canal and River Trust, The Forestry Commission, The National Trust and The RSPB, for example, all suggest ways to discover and interact with the natural world on your doorstep. A great book to start with is 50 Things to Do Before You’re 11 ¾ (Nosy Crow) which is just one of a wide range of books for children offered on the National Trust’s website. More about their publishing partnership with Nosy Crow in a future blog.
Finally, if you are a member of a book group or work in a school or library, take a look at this year’s competition, sponsored by Walker Books, and the equally fabulous prize of a visit from zoologist and writer Nicola Davies. Another great way to get young people involved in thinking about the world around them.
Please join the conversation and follow us @FCBGNews using the hashtags #NNFN and/or #TheWorldAroundUs
by Chris Routh