Writing Nature into Kids’ Lives09/10/2012
“Come in when the streetlights turn on.” That was the rule when I was a kid. Other than that, we had free reign of the neighborhood. We tore around on our bikes, climbed trees, built forts, and invented convoluted games that lasted for hours on those long summer evenings. The games changed as I grew older, but one thing stayed the same: We played outside.
As a teenager these shenanigans became more subdued and reflective in nature. I perched on a rock by the lake and wrote poetry. I planted daisies outside my bedroom window and lilies by the mailbox. I took long walks arm-in-arm with friends, or hand-in-hand with sweethearts.
Everyone laments that kids and teens don’t get outside anymore. It’s tragic. Between urban sprawl, stranger-danger, pollutants in the environment, and the siren song of video games and texting, they do less and less out-of-doors. But I believe that nature is a basic human need—kids need the privacy nature affords, a sense of connection to the earth and other living things, and the feeling of competence that we get when we do things for ourselves. Kids, simply put, need empty time and space in which to dream. As Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight Moon, said:
In this modern world where activity is stressed almost to the point of mania, quietness as a childhood need is too often overlooked. Yet a child’s need for quietness is the same today as it has always been—it may even be greater—for quietness is an essential part of all awareness. In quiet times and sleepy times a child can dwell in thoughts of his own, and in songs and stories of his own.
And I believe that literature can help create this quiet space for modern kids and teens. Our writing can awaken curiosity, inspire action, and help them re-connect to the natural world.
So let’s do it. Let’s put books in front of kids and teens that ask the most important question of all: “Can you come out and play?”
Molly Beth Griffin’s young adult novel Silhouette of a Sparrow comes out this month. She’ll be presenting on Nature Writing for Today’s Kids at the Loft Literary Center’s Nature & Environmental Writing Conference, Sept 21-23.
Image by Molly Beth Griffin. All rights reserved.