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Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder Paperback – April 22, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
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From Scientific AmericanUnstructured outdoor play was standard for me as a hyperactive child growing up in the rural Midwest. I fondly recall digging forts, climbing trees and catching frogs without concern for kidnappers or West Nile virus. According to newspaper columnist and child advocate Richard Louv, such carefree days are gone for America’s youth. Boys and girls now live a "denatured childhood," Louv writes in Last Child in the Woods. He cites multiple causes for why children spend less time outdoors and why they have less access to nature: our growing addiction to electronic media, the relinquishment of green spaces to development, parents’ exaggerated fears of natural and human predators, and the threat of lawsuits and vandalism that has prompted community officials to forbid access to their land. Drawing on personal experience and the perspectives of urban planners, educators, naturalists and psychologists, Louv links children’s alienation from nature to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, stress, depression and anxiety disorders, not to mention childhood obesity. The connections seem tenuous at times, but it is hard not to agree with him based on the acres of anecdotal evidence that he presents. According to Louv, the replacement of open meadows, woods and wetlands by manicured lawns, golf courses and housing developments has led children away from the natural world. What little time they spend outside is on designer playgrounds or fenced yards and is structured, safe and isolating. Such antiseptic spaces provide little opportunity for exploration, imagination or peaceful contemplation. Louv’s idea is not new. Theodore Roosevelt saw a prophylactic dose of nature as a counter to mounting urban malaise in the early 20th century, and others since have expanded on the theme. What Louv adds is a focus on the restorative qualities of nature for children. He recommends that we reacquaint our children and ourselves with nature through hiking, fishing, bird-watching and disorganized, creative play. By doing so, he argues, we may lessen the frequency and severity of emotional and mental ailments and come to recognize the importance of preserving nature. At times Louv seems to conflate physical activity (a game of freeze tag) with nature play (building a tree fort), and it is hard to know which benefits children most. This confusion may be caused by a deficiency in our larger understanding of the role nature plays in a child’s development. At Louv’s prompting, perhaps we will see further inquiry into this matter. In the meantime, parents, educators, therapists and city officials can benefit from taking seriously Louv’s call for a "nature-child reunion."
“[The] national movement to ‘leave no child inside’ . . . has been the focus of Capitol Hill hearings, state legislative action, grass-roots projects, a U.S. Forest Service initiative to get more children into the woods and a national effort to promote a ‘green hour’ in each day. . . . The increased activism has been partly inspired by a best-selling book, Last Child in the Woods, and its author, Richard Louv.” —The Washington Post
“Last Child in the Woods, which describes a generation so plugged into electronic diversions that it has lost its connection to the natural world, is helping drive a movement quickly flourishing across the nation.” —The Nation’s Health
“This book is an absolute must-read for parents.” —The Boston Globe
“An honest, well-researched and well-written book, . . . the first to give name to an undeniable problem.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“One of the most thought-provoking, well-written books I’ve read in recent memory. It rivals Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.” —The Cincinnati Enquirer
“Important and original. . . . As Louv so eloquently and urgently shows, our mothers were right when they told us, day after day, ‘Go out and play.’” —The Christian Science Monitor
“Last Child in the Woods is the direct descendant and rightful legatee of Rachel Carson’s The Sense of Wonder. But this is not the only thing Richard Louv has in common with Rachel Carson. There is also this: in my opinion, Last Child in the Woods is the most important book published since Silent Spring.” —Robert Michael Pyle, author of Sky Time in Gray’s River
“A single sentence explains why Louv’s book is so important: ‘Our children,’ he writes, ‘are the first generation to be raised without meaningful contact with the natural world.’ This matters, and Last Child in the Woods makes it patently clear why and lays out a path back.” —The Ecologist
“With this scholarly yet practical book, Louv offers solutions today for a healthier, greener tomorrow.” —Washington Post Book World
“The simplest, most profound, and most helpful of any book I have read on the personal and historical situation of our children, and ourselves, as we move into the twenty-first century.” —Thomas Berry, author of The Dream of the Earth
From the Back Cover
Top Customer Reviews
Nature deficit disorder is MORE prevalent in adults than in children, and we are passing the disease on to them by rearing them in a way that reflects our chosen values. It is something like parents who smoke and drink while telling their kids not to do the same. Not only is it an ineffective strategy, it is also a disingenuous one.
The author's point is that kids today are facing a nature deficit and that affects childhood obesity and even the potential for the next generation to appreciate the breadth of nature enough to want to preserve it. After all, if the local mall has an arboretum and that's all you know as nature, that's all you'll expect.
The culprit is not news to anyone, nor to any parent with enough income to plug their kids into all manner of electronic gadgets. Videogames, TV, computers and the like have proved a powerful pull on today's children. The cost is a lack of simple play outdoors, exploring creeks, fields, rocks and trees (the author doesn't count organized sports as nature exploration and rightly so in my book). It is sad, but not surprising to ask any kids under age 16 or so if the know how to play "Kick the Can." Hardly any do, and even fewer have played.
Louv offers a lot of data to back up the negative effects of this nature deficiency and some prescriptions to turn it around. While reestablishing phys ed in school will help, the answer is simple: parents, unplug your kids and kick them outside.
Having said this, I felt the author could have made his points and supported them in a long magazine article. There really wasn't enough for a full book and Louv gets repetitive and even inserts lists of ways to address the problem. I found myself scanning some sections later in the book because the points in those pages had been made before or the prescriptions he was offering were simplistic and I didn't feel worthy of the full play he gave to some.
That being said, important argument and point, I just wish I would have read this in about forty pages in a periodical.
Louv's hypothesis, in brief, is that we have entered a third frontier. Following the argument of America's first great historian, Frederick Jackson Turner, Louv suggests that America's frontier did indeed close in the 1890s, but it was replaced almost immediately by a second great frontier: life on farms, institutions such as scouting, and outdoor activities were, he argues, commonplace until the 1980s. But, just as Turner's thesis begins with the 1890 census, Louv finds the 1990 census an equally useful demarcation point, for beginning with this census, separate farm records are no longer kept, due to the decline in the rural population.Read more ›
There are things learned in nature, Louv posits, that cannot be learned anywhere else, not from books, or stories, or even the finest universities. Schools themselves may be partially responsible for our disenfranchisement from nature since the naturalist curriculum has been all but dropped from today’s scholastic regimen. Gone are the terrariums, the aquariums and the mini biospheres. Math and sciences such as microbiology and chemical engineering have taken center stage while naturalists have become the poor second cousins. And yet, where would the world be without naturalists like John Muir or Teddy Roosevelt? Without state and national parks is where had Muir and Roosevelt not had the contact with the natural world they’d both experienced as children.
According to Louv, in today’s world we’re “continually on the alert.” As more of the natural world is lost to pavement, the incessant images pouring from our televisions and computers and iPhones have become our constant companions. Louv doesn’t point a single finger, but a dozen. He considers various factors such as suburban sprawl which takes away the number of places a child can find solitude in nature, as well as a hyper-vigilant society that is always worried about where our children are and whether any harm may befall them.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is my second copy that I'm sending to my mom. I'm a strong believer in free play and throwing your kids outdoors. Read morePublished 3 days ago by trouble_kitty81
This was a gift and she had heard about it from her professor. She was anxious to start reading itPublished 8 days ago by Sharon Nelson
This book was a bit heavy to get through at times. I did like the author's proposal of "Nature Deficit Disorder" and thought that there were some good points about how much... Read morePublished 23 days ago by Avid reader
I'm very interested in child psychology and this book is a great read for any one who is interested in the field or any one who has children. Read morePublished 24 days ago by Kay
While the content was really good, I felt the book was a little long and repetitive. Our culture has continually separated itself from the outdoors, and we need to remedy that... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Russ
Nature Deficit Disorder? How funny. Soon there will not be a single functional person in this country.Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer