Book Review #3 – The Last Child in the Woods

The Last Child in the Woods – Saving our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder  by Richard Louv

I found this book interesting and informative.  I  heartily agree that nature is something too seldom considered, in our current American culture, and that something intrinsically vital to our physical, mental, and emotional health is endangered because of that lack.

I enjoyed reading about peoples’ experiences with nature as children and adults; programs designed to help kids who haven’t had natural experiences to learn about the wilder world; and the positive, restorative qualities of nature that are beginning to be well-documented in studies.

The character and place descriptions and  were rich and telling, and I liked the way the author referred to his own life, as a child and as a parent….it personalized the entire book for me.

I thought that many of the questions  regarding how children are to learn how to live in the natural world if they never have the opportunity to do so; and some of the thoughts about the dangers that lie in wait in a world where children do not know nature, to be pointed and urgent.

The author rails against children not having the requisite time or freedom to simply be in wild places, to use natural resources to create shelters, take their food, bring water…..

And yet, as so many mainstream writers do, he misses an enormous elephant sititng right in the midst of his book.

Author Richard Louv

I did find the either/or and all-or-nothing of the author’s perspective troubling…..he seems to have decided that technology is an inescapable trap, and must be kept largely away from children, because kids who use technological devices won’t be also deeply connected to the natural world.

It isn’t that way. Kids with freedom for both, can choose either, neither, or both.

This seems to me to invalidate a lot of the other panics he seems to have, and makes him a little less credible to me.  He seems to be thrashing around, wasting huge amounts of energy to solve a problem, but to be blind to one simple solution –  free children from compulsory schooling, and they will have many more hours each week to spend in nature –  and those who are so inclined, will, even if they also love enjoying the latest technological advances.

And what seems to be missing altogether is an awareness that school sucks a child’s hours away, that the “nature programming”, conceived and administered by adults, really does not allow for children to make their OWN discoveries, in their own ways and in their own times…

I will admit to personal prejudice.  The children in this house, who are not required to attend school and do not choose to, who love technology (one more than the other, but both fully embrace it), also spend many hours in natural pursuits.  One of them breathes nature; it is her single greatest passion at this point in her life.

While we support this passion, we do not attempt to direct it.  We offer opportunities, we support fort building and bug collecting and birdfeeding.  We go for walks and hikes and we camp.

We don’t put an agenda on it.  We simply enjoy the natural world, each in our own ways, and together in various assortments.

And we tour places we might never see, learn about species alien to our local ecosystems, because we have access to technology that makes our world wider.

Overall, I found the book to spend more time in propagandizing an attitude than in actually  focusing on how to get nature back into the hearts and souls of every American…and so it struck my more as a rant than a serious effort to study a problem from every possible angle, and offer solutions that consider all aspects of the problem.

Ratings:  1 to 5; 1 as lowest.

Readabilty: 4; very easy to read

Thought/Perspective  Provoking: 3; I was opened to new insights and issues while reading.

Credibility: 3;  The author ignored the idea that school does not need to be part of a child’s life, and that learning about nature doesn’t need programs as much as it does time in natural surroundings.

Overall rating: 3.  A good book, thought-provoking, and with some fairly large blind spots.


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