I’m very pleased to introduce the first ever guest blog post on Little Wild Tales. It is written by Jenny Bailey, author and co-founder of Tales from Mother Earth, a collective of five friends who seek to communicate conservation messages to children through the realms of storytelling and music. Here, Jenny explores a topic that is close to my heart – the role of storytelling in helping to reconnect children with the natural world and inspire them to take action to protect it. I hope you enjoy reading this post as much as I did and are perhaps even inspired to start telling wild stories of your own.
Storytelling has and will always be used to communicate, engage and connect people. As humans, it comes naturally to us, as every culture has its own stories that have been shared as a means of entertainment, education and cultural preservation. The activity of sharing stories in this way is centuries old, and many of the myths, fables and the fairy-tales we know today once began as a humble story narrative that have been passed down through generations and retold countless times. With our imaginations, stories can be created that are fact or fiction and it’s a place where sometimes the two can collide. There are no set rules to storytelling, that’s the beauty of it – we can all do it. Inspired by many things from the abstract to life’s adventures and nature, we can all tell a story when required at a moment’s notice.
Many times, as a parent I’ve made up stories with my children. Invariably all of mine have been about animals, where we’ve helped them, or where they’ve started talking to us and magically allowed us to enter their world. The best stories are the ones that have the power to connect with our emotions – and they’re the ones we tend to remember. I believe there is something magical in the process of storytelling, especially to children. If you’ve chosen a wonderful topic that piques their curiosity, a child will literally lean in closer to listen more intently to your every word and I believe, right there in that moment, you have the potential power to change the world!
When we at Tales from Mother Earth formed our collective conservation venture, we were in no doubt of the power of storytelling and the fact that it would play a huge part in our concept and vision. Right from our initial discussions we wanted our stories narrated by Mother Earth and each story had to have a conservation message in it, complete with bulleted action points for the reader to follow and implement. We wanted our stories to be realistic and reach a child’s heart, sharing with them the wonders and vulnerabilities of nature. Our mission was to connect children with nature and empower them to help the animal or insect we featured in our story, thus cementing their own special relationship with the wild through their experience.
When we connect with nature there are a multitude of benefits for us both physically and mentally. For children these benefits increase even further as their levels of confidence, creativity, wellbeing, curiosity and happiness rise dramatically. Through engaging with nature, and exploring its colours, sounds, tones and textures, a life-long love of learning can be sparked into action and amazing things can develop.
The research suggests that each generation is having less contact with the outdoors than the preceding one
Currently and very sadly, children throughout the world seem to be experiencing a great disconnect with nature. The research suggests that each generation is having less contact with the outdoors than the preceding one. Professor Michael Reiss (UCL Institute of Education) believes that “We owe it to all young people to reverse this trend – for their sakes, for our sakes and for nature’s sake.”
What could be the reason behind this trend, and how can we turn this around? I’m sure the reasons are multi-faceted as culture, technology, access to the countryside and green spaces, security, safety and fear can all play a part in answering this.
Jane Goodall, the renowned primatologist and ecological activist touched on it in a recent interview for The Observer, January 2021, where she stated that in her opinion, “children today have less time for that because they are fascinated by iPhones, laptops and video games. Also, many more children grow up in cities, surrounded by concrete. The important thing is to get them into nature – the younger the better.”
Thinking of my own experiences with my children who are now 9 and 12 years, it’s true that fascination with technology is a constant battle, but I believe there has to be a balanced approach to this, where you can make time for both pursuits. In today’s modern times, children seem to be growing up very fast. Childhood, and the innocence that comes with it, is only there for a short period of time. It’s within that brief window of early years development where we hope to engage a child’s imagination and wonder with our storytelling – reconnecting them with nature.
Simply put, we believe that if children can experience nature and open their eyes and learn about the beauty and abundance that is just outside, they will love and appreciate it more. Then, when that love is established, naturally you will want to protect that which you cherish. We also believe that once the connection is made, it would be very hard to break. So, it’s our mission to ‘re-wild’ children in this way and connect with them in their early years.
For us as parents and guardians, we can also become involved in the action. We can show our children and lead by example. By doing so, we can also feel empowered as we help and assist our wildlife that is in trouble and clearly needs our help. Perhaps through the experience of witnessing a child’s wonder of the natural world, we as adults can renew our relationship with it and learn to love and appreciate it even more.
In our collective conservation venture, TfME, we are aiming to perpetuate more of these moments for children and adults alike. By producing a range of audio/picture storybooks for children 3-10 years, that highlight the plight of our wildlife, we aim to ignite the conservationist in all of us – especially children.
Phoebe the Bee is the first book in the ‘Tales from the Countryside’ series, that aims to raise awareness among the young about the current threats our wildlife is facing from erosion of natural habitat, climate change and plastic pollution. It’s an educational tale about a worker bee who through her courage and determination manages to save the hive and her family when her natural environment is threatened by modern development. We share a fictional tale about a very real issue as bees are seriously in decline currently across the world. It’s all about reconnecting and empowering children with the natural world in a positive way. By providing guidance and conservation action tips, we encourage the reader(s) to get involved and help the featured animal or insect directly. Also, we’ve added many different age-related stimuli to the contents so that over time as a child’s understanding and abilities grow, their engagement is maintained with a fun, interactive and rewarding experience.
We aim to ignite the conservationist in all of us – especially children
At Tales from Mother Earth, we believe that through collaborations with like-minded individuals and organisations lasting change can occur that can benefit everyone. We are working hard to rewild children through storytelling as a means of educating the next generation in a positive way. Whilst being on this journey, I have the privilege to chat with many professionals in the areas of conservation and psychology. Time and time again I’m informed that ‘we must reach the children in order to change the future’, so it’s clear to me that the path we are taking is the correct one.
I believe there has never been a more important time to connect children with nature than right now. In these troubled times, we need to re-wild childhood and give many children the opportunity to explore the outside. For some of the reasons mentioned in this blog and many more, now is the time to think about the immense significance of these actions and the consequences we may face if this can’t be achieved.
For me, through our storytelling and workshops, TfME will continue to do all we can raising awareness of this concern and working tirelessly to enhance nature’s connection with the young. Next book Spike the Hedgehog coming soon! 😊