Special features

Book from PBS Kids host explains how to become a nature mentor

We publish roundups of new books about birds two times a year, in our June and December issues. For our December 2015 issue, we wrote about 18 titles, including the book featured here. Scroll down for links to our other reviews from the issue.
By Matt Mendenhall | Published: 10/19/2015

How-to-Raise-a-Wild-Child_300x453Articles in our June 2015 issue explained why we adults should encourage the children in our lives to watch birds. Birding, we wrote, improves kids’ physical and mental health, it helps them form community, and, of course, it’s fun.

Scott D. Sampson, the host of PBS Kids’ Dinosaur Train and the vice president of research and collections and chief curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, expands the conversation with his terrific new book, How to Raise a Wild Child.

Consider it a followup of sorts to Richard Louv’s bestseller Last Child in the Woods (Algonquin Books, 2005). Louv’s book sparked initiatives to reconnect kids with nature, including the Children & Nature Network, which he co-founded.

15 resources for young birders.

“The current children-in-nature movement, although booming, is still largely a grassroots effort at the fringes of affluent white society,” Sampson writes. “We have a long way to go before turning the corner on connecting kids with nature, let alone achieving sustainable societies.”

Sampson does not dwell on the depressing statistics about kids’ lack of connection with the outdoors. Instead, his goal is to turn readers into nature mentors: people who help their children, grandchildren, scout troops — you name it — make lasting connections with the natural world.

He starts with the basics of nature mentoring, “big ideas to help scaffold learning.” Then he spends a chapter each on mentoring youngsters in early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence. Next, he addresses two big hurdles facing nature mentors: digital technologies and urban environments.

And he offers this honest assessment of the reader’s task: “To be a truly effective mentor, you’ll have to deepen your own level of connection with nature as well. And you’ll need to open yourself up to new, more experimental forms of learning. The finest mentors learn as much or more from their mentees as the reverse.”

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How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature, by Scott D. Sampson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 352 pages, hardcover, $25.

Five reasons why birding is a cure-all for kids.

An environmental educator shares tips for sparking an interest in birds among youngsters.

How a walk in a burned forest turned a nine-year-old into a birder.

Publishers and authors:

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