Richard Louv

Recipient of the Audubon Medal

Author of the International Bestseller Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder

From the Blog

How Libraries Can Connect Children and Adults to Nature, and Build Support for Libraries

Can libraries connect children to nature? You bet. “Today, via a library’s outdoor learning space, librarians are participating in the growing movement to connect children with the environment,” write Tracy Delgado-LaStella and Sandra Feinberg in this month’s issue of American Libraries magazine. The excellent piece describes the efforts of Middle Country Public Library in Centereach, New York, which has created The Nature Explorium.

girl reading

In collaboration with the Dimensions Educational Research Foundation and Long Island Nature Collaborative for Kids (LINCK), the library converted an adjacent 5000-square foot area into a outdoor learning environment, “including a climbing/crawling area, messy materials area, building area, nature art area, music and performance area, planting area, gathering/conversation place, reading area, and water feature.”

The program encourages a balance of programmed and informal activities, and The Nature Exploratorium is watched by library staff (pages or clerks) and every child is required to have a caregiver on the grounds. From the beginning, the idea “struck a chord with many supporters,” including some new donors.

Indeed, libraries are a perfect place to gently and safely help families connect to nature. Libraries exist in every kind of neighborhood; they already serves as community hubs; they’re often supported by Friends groups; they have existing resources (nature books); they’re often more flexible than schools; and they’re known for being safe.

Perhaps we need a national library campaign to connect people to the nature of their communities. One benefit of the approach: libraries could expand the public constituency for libraries, as they offer information about the health and learning benefits of nature time.

Recently, Booklist, the American Library Association’s book review journal, asked me for suggestions for how libraries and Friends of the Library groups could apply what I call “the Nature Principle” — which is also the name of a soon-to-be-released book that I hope will help build the children and nature movement, by expanding it to the lives of adults. I shared some ideas with Booklist, specific to libraries, that I’ve been speaking and writing about for a while. Here are some of those, and a few more:

Libraries can become proponents of family nature clubs, providing free tool kits (the Children & Nature Network offers this online, in English and Spanish) and encouraging the clubs to meet at the library. And they can offer families information about online resources for outdoor activities, such as Nature Rocks. Another good resource is C&NN’s feature, Where Nature Meets Story.

Libraries can offer outdoor gear for checkout by children. Some libraries are already doing this. Brother Yusuf Burgess, a member of the C&NN board, reports that libraries in his community are offering fishing rods for checkout.

Libraries can build bioregional identity by expanding regional natural history sections, offering lectures by local nature experts, and providing a meeting place for people who want to explore and discuss the nature of their own region. They can become information hubs of outdoor activities, offering area maps, pamphlets on local nature, brochures for hiking clubs, and registries for community gardens.

They can also encourage backyard biodiversity by partnering with natural history museums and botanical gardens. For example, libraries could hand out free packets of seeds to families who want to help bring back butterfly and bird migration routes. Libraries can convene groups of architects, urban designers, educators, physicians and other professionals to plan the re-naturing of the surrounding community.

And, libraries across the country can create outdoor reading and learning centers, where, as Middle Country Public Library’s Web page puts it, “children will discover the gift of nature.” And so will adults.

Originally published on the Children & Nature Network website.

Next post: The Reality of Nature in Difficult Times

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I like nature and that’s why i like gardens in my home. You shared nice and interesting information here. thanks

I’m a writer working on a project on how kids are introduced or “turned on” to nature nowadays. I’m particularly interested because of a few factors. Richard Louv’s recent book “Last Child in the Woods” expresses his concern that kids today are growing up without exposure to nature, and makes a good argument for doing so. Current environmental issues today need multigenerational solutions, so this will only become more troublesome as the next few generations mature. And most of all, I have a son now, and it’s darn fun to get him involved in nature. It got me thinking: books like Louv’s do a great job arguing for getting kids back into the natural world, but they don’t much talk about how it’s done. I want to talk to people who are really, totally, uniquely passionate about doing this in diverse locations, with exciting or inspirational stories of how you (or someone else) pass the world and passion for it onto kids. Think Steve/Bindi Irwin, etc. Anyone out there willing to correspond?

Very useful post. Thank you for sharing.

I’m raised to love nature, but today people don’t pay attention to it. Hope world will realize what is right to do!

I hope to see more children connected to nature through libraries.  Can libraries connect children to nature? You bet. It is great to see librarians participating in the growing movement to connect children with the environment. If more libraries create things like The Nature Explorium, we should see an influx of students wanting to learn more about nature.

Why should kids go to the library to connect with nature? Why not go there in the first place and skip the library?

I agree that there are no need to library to connect nature, but this new technique helps kids to close to nature as well as book. So Thanks to be practical.

I bet kids who read more books are kids who are more passionate about nature. So when I read the headline, I never thought it’s strange. I believe the librarians and parents/guardians are in a good position to encourage kids to go outdoors and appreciate nature. A book is a good company, especially if you’re trying to find serenity in the arms of Mother Nature.Just a thought, maybe this can be a great book marketing technique for children’s book authors. Got to share this with my friends!

Great article here. It’s always good to see that the idea of connecting kids to reading and nature is still alive. Books and magazines are a spectacular way to get kids excited about nature. A few nice photos certainly helps to stimulate the imagination as-well!

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