Wild Spaces and Wild Stories – Guest Post by Sophie Anderson

It is no coincidence that Yanka, the main character in my new book, The Girl Who Speaks Bear, goes into the forest to discover who she is. Throughout history, humans have journeyed into the natural world to grow, learn, discover, heal, seek enlightenment or be inspired.

Yet modern life has led many people to spend less time outdoors, and as a result feel increasingly disconnected from nature. In recent years, there have been some wonderful initiatives to encourage people to venture into the natural world more, and use it as a space for recreation, learning, healing and inspiration.

Many schools are actively encouraging their pupils to connect with the natural world. Some have created beautiful outdoor spaces where pupils can play, build dens, and explore. And some schools are using their outdoor spaces not just as places to play, but as outdoor classrooms where pupils can study a variety of subjects including bushcraft, gardening, music, art and photography.

Where outdoor learning is built into the curriculum, and pupils are given dedicated time outdoors every week, teachers speak passionately and enthusiastically about the benefits of outdoor learning. They describe how pupils become happier, healthier and calmer; exhibit increased engagement in activities, improved behaviour, enhanced creativity; and development of observation, communication and problem solving skills. 

As a lover of the outdoors and nature, I find these success stories heartening. And as a writer, I love to hear how books are also being used to inspire pupils and help them connect with the natural world – through art, poetry and prose. 

The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris has been applauded by many teachers, as has the campaign to get a copy into every school and care home. The impact of The Lost Words has been phenomenal, and speaks to me of the endless power of books.

There are a wealth of books to discover that can take readers on journeys through the natural world; beautiful picture books, gorgeous poetry, informative non-fiction, wonderful memoirs, and page turning novels that whisk you away to wild places. I hope The Girl Who Speaks Bear becomes one of these books, that inspires readers to find their own adventures in the natural world.

The House with Chicken Legs and The Girl who Speaks Bear are published by Usborne and available to purchase from your local independent book store.

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