Where the wild tales are: how stories teach kids to nurture nature

S. F. Said in Nature:

Heneghan_CollageToday’s children will face huge environmental challenges, from climate change to oceanic pollution. The International Union for Conservation of Nature, for instance, has noted that nearly one-quarter of mammals are globally threatened or extinct. In Beasts at Bedtime, ecologist Liam Heneghan argues that books can help children deal with these grim eventualities.

Heneghan’s assertion is partly a response to the ‘No Child Left Inside’ movement, sparked by journalist Richard Louv’s 2005 Last Child in the Woods. Heneghan supports Louv’s aim of re-introducing today’s digital-drenched children to outdoor life. But he also believes that reading and being read to help children gain environmental literacy, enabling them to engage with nature in profound ways. To make his case, Heneghan discusses around 20 children’s books in detail, and analyses their environmental themes.

His focus is on classics such as Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902) and L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900): British and North American texts that have found a global readership. The selection is drawn from his experiences as a parent and reader, and from recommendations. In lists provided by US professional teachers’ organization the National Education Association, for example, he finds that every book recommended for preschoolers is environmentally themed. Meanwhile, 60% of those recommended for 4- to 8-year-olds “feature animals or are in other ways concerned with nature”, as do 50% for 9- to 12-year-olds.

More here.