Nature-based literacy – building lifelong learning and connecting kids to nature

snail kite food

Image by debh2u via Flickr

Nature-based literacy is combining reading with being outdoors, helping kids (and adults) develop a love for both, and nurturing a lifelong connection to nature and learning. Having been an environmental educator for more than 30 years and a librarian for part of that time, I am a big fan of nature-based literacy as an approach to get kids outdoors and encourage them to read more.

So how do you  create nature-based literacy events or programs? Start small, think big.

If you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, librarian, or anyone who interacts with even one child regularly, you have the perfect opportunity. Simply grab a really cool book about nature and take your special child outdoors to read. Take a hike or just sit under a tree outside your house and read together.

If you are working with groups of kids or families try this idea. Plan a themed hike or event.  I’m doing two of these this year for the CREW Land & Water Trust. One is called Stargazing and Storytelling. The other is called the Birds, Bugs, and Bears Hike. Both are for families of all ages.

In both cases, we’ll be outdoors, spending time in nature, learning about and enjoying what’s there, but we’ll also take time out during the hike and during the star-gazing to read stories or excerpts from stories related to the topics. I’m also creating reading lists for parents to take home and use to extend their experiences outdoors.

Other cool themes to use are:

  • Nature’s Alphabet – have kids look for things in nature than make the shape of different letters and read books related to them
  • Food webs – have kids search for connected parts of a food web
  • Flowers – go on a wildflower scavenger hunt and take a field guide with you
  • Scat – kids love to look for and find animal poop – get a field guide to scat to make it a fun learning experience

If you’re looking for great books to use for nature-based literacy, try some of these authors:

  • Byrd Baylor
  • Carl R. Sams II
  • Eric Carle
  • Lois Ehlert
  • Leonora Hornblow
  • Janell Cannon
  • Jean Craighead George
  • Scott O’Dell
  • Thornton Burgess

There are many, many more wonderful nature writers, but these can get you started. For lots more on nature writers, good books, and getting kids connected to nature, check out the Wild About Nature blog and the Children and Nature Network.

It’s as simple as that.

What good books or authors do you recommend? What ideas can you share here for connecting kids with reading and nature at the same time?



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About Deb Hanson

Always a learner...an endless seeker... educator, biologist, dreamer, innovator, mom, wife... Located in Portland, OR.
This entry was posted in Connecting, Education, Environmental Education, Learning, Reading and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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