Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I desperately wish this was a book that I could recommend, but I can't. I wish that the author built solid arguments based on proven research and logic. Instead, while I wholeheartedly agree with the main sentiment, I find myself at a loss at who I could recommend this to.
Last Child in the Woods sets out to demonstrate how the modern child, through a lack of interaction with nature, has experienced a development failure. In order to combat this problem, we must find ways to reintegrate our children with nature. There are tidbits of excellent advice based on research throughout, such as research that shows when children use all of their senses to absorb information they are much more likely to retain it. This is in contrast to our modern classroom environment where students are lectured to and observe examples on the board, then asked to repeat them at home. In this way, children are only experiencing one or two senses in tandem. Moving the learning environment outdoors exposes the child to all of their senses at once.
I was looking for this book to provide the following:
- A definition of the problem (identify specific developmental issues in children)
- A definition of the root cause (lack of exposure to nature), along with properly cited research to bolster that claim
- Proposals for addressing the root cause (public, private, and personal) as well as properly cited research that demonstrates how these efforts are effective
This type of structured argument is not found in this book. What the book does provide is unstructured rambling that tries to cover too much territory in too shallow of detail. It is for that reason that I can't take it to my local, state, and federal representatives. I can't recommend this book to the school board. Instead, I'm left with a book that appeals to me emotionally, but leaves me with no ammunition to argue that we should make broader efforts to expose our children to nature. If there is one element of the book that I would recommend, it would be the last 70 or so pages where Louv provides concrete recommendations on activities to undertake, community actions, and further reading.
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Posted by Adam Jones at 2:06 PM
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I've really enjoyed everything I have ready from Bacigalupi. He has a unique way of painting a poisoned future that you can believe is possible. Ship Breaker is the story of Nailer, a young boy working salvage on a beach near where New Orleans once stood. He is tormented by an abusive father and struggles just to make it through each day. Nailer is surrounded by inescapable poverty, yet just on the horizon he sees the beautiful ships of the wealthy elite who control, or ignore, his ship breaking outfit. Presented with a strange twist of luck, Nailer must make some very difficult choices between saving a life or making his own life easier.
This is categorized as a YA book. Most YA books are categorized as such because they are providing blunt exposition of a particular issue, like fitting in during your teen years, or dealing with early romance. Ship Breaker takes on a much more difficult topic: invisible privilege. Nailer is a member of an extremely poor underclass. When the privileged and wealthy are forced to recognize him, they are shocked to find that Nailer lacks privileges that they take for granted. Literacy, food, education, current events....all of these are unreliable if available at all to Nailer. From my own experience I know that it wasn't until I was late into my 20's that I became truly aware of the extent of invisible privilege and how it can work to prevent the poor from escaping poverty. Exposing youth to this concept could do a great deal of good.
I listened to the Audible audio book version of this story, which was available from my library. The narrator does a fantastic job of lending a unique voice to each character. Even without prompts I was easily able to tell which character was speaking. The only voices I struggled with were the slight difference between his Irish and Indian accents, but these characters were rarely in the same scene together.
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Posted by Adam Jones at 9:11 AM