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Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

Book Review

Last child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv (Algonquin Books, 2006)


Does your child have nature-deficit disorder? Do you?

I'll admit, the title made me hold out for the paperback before reading this gem ("Oh dear," I thought, "not another disorder.").

The author, Richard Louv, totally charmed me with his thoughtful, accessible, and well-researched presentation. He offers considerable evidence that many of our societal and individual sicknesses relate to our increasing distance from the natural world.

This separation has many causes, including fear and the hectic pace of modern life. Louv makes a compelling case that our very salvation depends on finding ways to reconnect with nature, and that you don't have to be a tree-hugging hippie to support the regreening our cities, schools, and homes.

As a parent, I found the arguments related to fear especially interesting. Many parents say they can't let their kids play in the woods the way they did, because of the fear of stranger danger. Yet as Louv points out, the crimes that worry parents are exceedingly rare. Crime rates in national parks are infinitesimal compared to crime rates in cities. Louv hypothesizes that we are actually making our children less safe by depriving them of the "trust-your-gut" instinct that nature play helps to develop. Kids who play in nature also develop a confident bearing that makes them less likely to become victims.

Other parents are more worried about their children getting injured by nature itself. Although injuries do happen in the woods, they also happen on the soccer field. Yet nature play offers unparalleled opportunities to develop coordination and know-how that help kids prevent injuries. Louv says, tell 'em to take a friend and a cell phone.

There's lots more to love about this book - practical advice for parents, educators, and urban planners.

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