In The Last Child in the Woods (2005), Richard Louv brought the need to connect children to nature into the public conversation, introducing to parents, teachers, community partners, and policy-makers the term “nature-deficit disorder,” and described the benefits of nature connection. He followed up by co-founding the non-profit Children & Nature Network and writing another book extending his call for nature connection to adults, The Nature Principle (2011). His latest offering – Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life (Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2016, 277 pp.) – serves as a practical companion to those other two books with “500 Ways to Enrich the Health & Happiness of Your Family & Community.” These 500 ways are not simply activities, games, and nature crafts like in many of the books I share about here (and will continue to share about). They are ways to restructure one’s own life or community so that time spent in nature (the “N” in Vitamin N) is part of the normal routine.
Louv organizes his 500 ways into larger themes: from how nature can be a family affair and bringing nature closer to home to exploring wilder places and how connecting to nature can happen at school. In each chapter, ideas for nature connection are shared and each contains boxed mini-essays exploring a topic a little further, such as “Creating a Family Nature-Trail Guide” or “Is There a Recommended Dose of Vitamin ?” This is the kind of book one can reference over and over again as needed.
Toward the end of Vitamin N, Louv writes: “All children need nature, not only those whose parents appreciate nature, not only those of a certain economic class or culture or set of abilities. All children, and future generations, have a right to a nature-rich future, and the option to share in the responsibilities that come with the right” (p. 237). I see myself turning to Vitamin N when seeking fresh ideas for nature connection with my family, and I expect this book to become a standard, go-to guide for parents, teachers, other educators, and community members – the many thousands of people across the land working to connect ALL children to nature – whose copies will become well-thumbed through, marked with post-it notes, the pages marked up, and the cover worn. There are a couple of blank pages at the end of the book, and while that is not unusual for books, I like to think that they are intended as a space for the reader to continue adding new ways of their own. 501… 502… 503.
UPDATE: Richard Louv reminded me that if you click here (scroll down), you can submit your own ideas for connecting to nature. They will be made viewable to everyone!