Author Richard Louv gave a name to a problem many parents have sensed: Nature Deficit Disorder, or, the growing disconnection between children and nature. Many kids spend too much time glued to computers and other electronic devices. We all know that. People in general seem to be losing touch with the natural world. Louv’s excellent book, Last Child in the Woods, offers plenty of ideas for helping kids reconnect with nature. It’s a great read. And it made me wonder ...
Are there books kids can read (after a long day of playing outside, of course) that will strengthen their connection to the natural world? I think so. And here are my top five picks:
1) THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS, by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden
This book has a ton of information about good old-fashioned outdoor skills—things our grandparents knew: how to tie knots, how to build a tree house, how to use a slingshot. My son and his friends have referred to this book dozens of times over the years. It is truly kid-tested.
2) FEED, by M.T. Anderson
My son and I listened to FEED on a road trip and became utterly engrossed in the story. It’s a dark tale (appropriate for age 13 and above) about a future where everyone is “connected” 24/7, where the Internet is basically wired into your brain at birth. Consumption is all people care about and nature is at death’s door.
This powerfully-crafted story made me grateful for the natural world and helped me see it with a fresh perspective.
3) THE HOBBIT AND THE LORD OF THE RINGS, By J.R.R. Tolkien
These books are a celebration of all that is green and wild and earthy. Tolkien clearly loved nature and the outdoors. A reader can’t help but see the world with fresh eyes (and fresh appreciation) after travelling through Middle Earth.
4) THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, by Kenneth Grahame
A classic and a celebration of nature, through and through. Also a great study of some of the personality types a child is likely to encounter as he or she grows up. I read this book to my son when he was in second grade and he loved it.
5) NEVER CRY WOLF, By Farley Mowat
Farley Mowat’s account of the summer he lived in the frozen tundra, alone, studying the wolf population and developing a deep affection for these wild creatures, is a classic. The Disney movie is great, but the book is better. As Mowat learned 50 years ago, wolves are a natural part of the ecosystem. They deserve to be in places like Yellowstone and the North Cascades of Washington state. They have an important role in the wild. I recommend this book for kids—and for western-state politicians who still think all predators should be exterminated.
Any books you’d like to add to this list? Please let me know!