Mother Nature and child reunion at Cloquet Public Library this summer
By: Lisbeth Boutang, Pine Journal
What does it mean for children to grow up now? For most of us baby boomers, it meant climbing trees, building forts, discovering secret clearings in the woods and naming rocks that were big enough to stand on to survey our wilderness. In Richard Louv’s book, “Last Child in the Woods,” a child of today yearns “to be free, to not have to be clean, to still be considered a kid, is that too much to ask? We should have the same rights as adults did when they were young.”
But they don’t. Sometimes it seems that Mark Twain’s Tom and Huck should pack it in — come home from the woods, plug in Becky’s PlayStation, and master the new Grand Theft Auto video game, writes Louv. The criminalization of natural play from legal restrictions and homeowners’ covenants favor electrical outlets over just about every form of natural play. Unfortunately, an indoor sedentary childhood is linked to many physical and mental problems.
Louv talks about an ecological literacy, a spirit of place children need to experience. The restorative powers of natural landscapes and gardens are ancient essentials. Children need nature for learning and creativity, for digging and collecting, for hiking and discovering: “One could do worse than be a swinger of birches,” agreed Poet Robert Frost.
The call of the wild can still be heard among library aisles. Well-worn books by wilderness writers like Gary Paulsen find a niche on youth fiction shelves, and “My Side of the Mountain” by Jean Craighead George, written in 1959 about a boy’s retreat into the woods, continues to be checked out. Ironically, much of popular juvenile fiction with a wilderness backdrop has evolved into fantasy novels centered on colonies of owls, bears, cats and wolves, omitting humans.
This summer the Cloquet Public Library presents “Dig into Reading” as the theme of its summer reading program. Its earthy objective has inspired activities such as growing a garden with Sydney’s Green Garden of Duluth, making a worm motel, becoming “dirt detectives,” and nature story times, as well as a program on dinosaurs by the St. Paul Science Museum and a visit from the Minnesota Zoo’s Zoomobile.
Children will be able to boost their reading skills by participating in our annual Summer Reading Challenge. All children are eligible, and preschoolers will receive credit for books read aloud to them. Children must read at their own reading levels and receive incentives along the way. Participants can register online by going to the Youth page on the library’s website, www.cloquet.lib.mn.us, or by filling out a reading log.
Additional fun will include a scavenger hunt, “Where’s Jeffrey?” and a Kids’ Game Card with drawings for prizes. For more information, pick up a flyer at the library starting in mid-May or look for a library representative to visit or leave copies of our summer activities at your school in May. Every child who registers for the reading challenge will receive a free packet of information and fun activity items. The program officially begins in early June after school gets out for the summer. For more information, call 218-879-1531.
Regrettably, a disappointing loss of learning takes place when young people are not in school during the summer. The Cloquet Public Library encourages reading during this critical time, but we also endorse the importance of an ecological literacy and are using this year’s theme to promote the natural world and its exceptional role in childhood.
Lisbeth Boutang is the children’s librarian at the Cloquet Public Library. She can be contacted at 218-879-1531.