December 04, 2018 5 min read
Here at Vertebrate Publishing, our motto is inspiring adventure. Our titles aim to ignite that wondrous spark and encourage people to discover all that the great outdoors has to offer. From climbing boulders to summiting mountains, walking routes to fell running, or even simply taking in the visual beauty of nature on a quiet, bright day, the outdoors has something for everyone.
Oftentimes, our adventurous spirit begins as a young child – when our imaginations are ripe and our inquisitive minds want to see, do and learn. Our fiction imprint, Shrine Bell, is dedicated to preserving and encouraging this.
However, current literary trends tend towards issue-based children’s books, which has seen a decline in the number of adventure books published for children in the last few years.
A recent report by The Guardian looking into themes of children’s literature found that ‘there is a general societal trend – more inwards, more restrictive of the child’s movements, more focused on the self’. This shift inwards has been attributed to an increasing focus on mental health and individual wellbeing: ‘Many deal with things going wrong in families: family breakdown, accidents, deaths, mental health problems from depression and addiction to borderline personality disorders, all of which it will be impossible for a child to resolve as the issues are insurmountable’.
While this new focus on mental health is undoubtedly positive, the chain reaction seems to have caused a decline in outdoor adventure titles, meaning the positive mental benefits of such adventures are being cast aside. In an ideal world, the advantages of both approaches would be made known so that children would be free to explore these issues in a narrative style of their choice.
It is not only this shift towards exploring the issues of the self that has seen attitudes change towards adventure narratives and outdoor play, but the societal shift towards a more technologically focused world. Our daily lives are continuously becoming more and more materialistic – children now have myriad access to mobile phones, TV, tablets and gaming consoles – possessions are starting to take precedence over the possibilities of the outdoors and the joy of adventure. It has even recently been reported that children today are more likely to own a mobile phone than a book!
With that said, let’s take a look at the unique benefits of outdoor adventure time for children:
It’s healthy (in more ways than one!):
We all know the physical benefits of getting our children outdoors (fresh air, working up a healthy appetite, and a stronger immune system, to name a few), but the mental health benefits are just as important:
Teaching respect and appreciation for the outdoors:
Less self. More world. While, of course, caring about yourself is important, the environment needs our consideration too. Children are the future and the environment needs protecting now and forever. The act of reading outdoor adventure stories as a young child can ignite this essential protective mindset and ensure that our love for the outdoors is never abandoned.
Following on from the recent publication of Robert MacFarlane’s The Lost Words, a beautiful book which stands against the disappearance of words used to describe nature from a child’s vocabulary, there’s been a lot of talk about educating children by taking them out into nature. It is a worrying trend that some children cannot identify certain plants, trees, wildlife or birds. If they cannot recognise them, how can we expect children to grow up and protect them? It is more important now than ever to reignite this admiration and understanding of nature.
What’s more, we can lose this key caring trait as we grow older and become encumbered by life’s abundance of distractions. Our Waymaking book is all about dedicating time, love and adventures to the landscapes that surround us. The women’s experiences in this anthology often hark back to memories of being outdoors as a child.
Reading adventure stories inspires outdoor play:
Children’s adventure books contribute excellently to the fun factor of the outdoors – the characters and adventures in these stories live fondly in a child’s imagination long after the final page. As well as building on their daily experiences, be that stories or other mediums, in the canvas of the outdoors, children can become creators of their own unique stories. I remember countless visits to my local woods as a child with my friends, re-enacting the Winnie the Pooh expeditions I had enjoyed reading at bedtime.
Our latest children’s book Popcorn-Eating Squirrels of the World Unite!, celebrates the boundless nature of a child’s imagination. To quote its award-winning author, Matt Dickinson: ‘It’s a pure flight of the imagination with no limits on craziness and bonkers stuff!’
There are endless possibilities and inspiration is a mere page turn away – let their imagination run wild!
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