cover image NOAH'S CHILDREN: Restoring the Ecology of Childhood

NOAH'S CHILDREN: Restoring the Ecology of Childhood

Sara Stein, . . North Point, $25 (307pp) ISBN 978-0-86547-584-7

Stein, a horticulturist and writer (Noah's Garden), weighs in on the child-rearing debate with a convincing case for the crucial role nature should play in children's lives. "We no longer give children freedom, privacy, place, or time" to explore nature, says Stein, though Young children are always more interested in going outdoors than playing inside with child-safe toys. She explores factors like the physical isolation of the suburbs from plant and animal life, overconcern with child safety and too much adult supervision, which have combined to distance children from the natural environment. She describes, for example, a structured class trip to a park conducted by a naturalist who insisted that the 50 fifth graders "walk in pairs and never leave the trail... keep their hands at their sides... not... touch so much as a leaf." The naturalist's lecture failed to spark the student's curiosity; they were more intrigued by the freedom of a picnic to come. In contrast, Stein visits an after-school program where seven-through-12-year-olds were allowed to play in the mud and demonstrated detailed understanding of a local water purity project. Stein also believes that children develop self-esteem from helping with such family work as shelling peas or loading the dryer rather than always being instructed to play. And she argues for encouraging a child's natural identification and fascination with animals. Despite Stein's rambling style, her observations and philosophy are consistently engrossing. (June)