Patrick Barkham’s latest book couldn’t be more timely.
Wild Child: Coming Home to Nature is that perfect reminder – as if we needed it – of how vital it is for our children to get out and about and enjoy the great outdoors.
Throughout the pandemic, gardens, parks and the countryside are the places that have kept us all sane, especially during the lockdowns. We allowed ourselves to reconnect with nature in a way we’ve never done before.
And for children, being cooped up indoors is as unnatural as rearing calves in crates for veal.
Barkham is a journalist for The Guardian and a celebrated nature writer. He draws on his own experience as a parent and as a volunteer for Dandelion, an outdoor nursery in Norfolk where his three children spent time.
He’s upfront about his privilege and hypocrisy, acknowledging where he fails to live up to his environmentalist ideals. However, he is quick to emphasise that nature isn’t just for middle-class white children.
All of the UK’s three- and four-year-olds are eligible for 15 free hours of childcare a week, including at places like Dandelion.
When he tags along on an ESL forest school session in Nottinghamshire, Barkham sees that the children get more exercise and show greater concentration, while underachievers taken to study poetry in a National Trust ruin benefit from the kinaesthetic learning and time in nature.
Isabella Tree, the author of Wilding, describes Wild Child as ‘Entrancing…if ever there was a book to fuel the ecological interest of future generations, this is it. An inspiration for parents, grandparents and teachers, it is equally about showing adults how to recover their own joie de vivre.’
Wild Child was nominated for the Wainwright Prize (won by another of this year’s BridLit guests, James Rebanks).
In this, his fifth book, Barkham lays down a challenge: ‘Show me a child who cannot make a home in nature, given the opportunity.’
Wild Child is not just for parents and educators of young children but for all who have a stake in future generations’ resolve to conserve the natural world.
You can see Patrick Barkham in the Bull Ballroom on Wednesday 10 November at 4.30pm. More details here.
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