Children may be better at identifying Pokémon characters than real animals and plants but is that really the problem?
The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane is a quest to reconnect young readers with the natural world. All over the country, there are words disappering from children’s lives. Today, many words of the natural words are slowly being replaced with other words, like the names of Pokémon characters.
Words like Dandelion, Otter, Bramble and Acorn, all not part of the vocabulary anymore. A 2016 study by Cambridge University reaserchers tried to “quantify children’s knowledge of nature” and they surveyed a cohort of four- to 11-year-old children in Britain. Two sets of picture cards were used, 100 cards showing common species of British plant or wildlife, including adder, bluebell, heron, otter, puffin and wren, and 100 picture cards showing a Pokémon character, including Arbok, Beedrill, Hitmonchan, Omanyte, Psyduck and Wigglytuff. The children could name more Pokémon characters.
The reserachers pointed to evidence linking “loss of knowledge about the natural world to growing isolation from it”. It was suggegested that we need to re-establish children’s links with nature.
What is the extinction of the sloth to a child who has never seen a fox”?
The visully stunning book, illustrated by Jackie Morris, is a wonderful celebration of nature words and the natural worls that these words relate to.
I love the book and the fight to capture the magic of language and nature.
‘Where have these lost names gone?
Yet, the problem is of course not the loss of words as such but what the loss of wild play and wild imagination is having on children and the world.
A think dive into nature is so much more than words. For a young child who loves biomimicry, it is a invitation to be curious and creative. To observe and to use all senses to understand and admire nature and to use this as a stepping stone to invent and solve problems. Solving everyday problems, designing things and make innovations by studying nature is just a different way to use wild imagination. A wild play that takes place in your head and in your hands when you draw or build a model of you fascinating innovation.
Teaching young children to use creative techinques and tools is vital if they are going to help solve problems that they will face in the future. To value animals and plants is necessary to develop a desire to save and care for them.
David Attenborough’s Tv-serie Planet Earth 2 devoted a whole episode to urban wildlife. Watching this taught me that animals living in cities and built-up areas are just a fascinating to study. And maybe we need start valuing these animals and plants as well. After all, more and more children grow up in urban areas as compared to rural areas.
The Lost Words is an important book but maybe it is also only the first step. Stories, words and experiencing nature should give children a powerful and alive experience.
Nature is powerful and a large and rich vocabulary to describe nature is important. But nature is not always wondrous. It is also violent and absurd.
Twenty spells or charms, from acorn, to bluebell and kingfishers and willow, with beautiful illustrations makes this a book that will be dived into again and again. The book is designed to be read out loud, under a tree, or on the window sill whiel watching the urban pigeons on the street below. It is a book for adults and children, for adults to read with children. It is a book filled with magic as well as inspirational ideas, thoughts and observations.
“Willow, when the wind blows so your branches billow, will you whisper while we listen so we learn what words your long leaves loosen?”