The Delightful Horror of Family Birding: Sharing Nature with the Next Generation by Eli J. Knapp
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
How do we ignite a love for nature in young people? If you follow Eli Knapp’s model, you do it with humor, gentle insight, and love for both children and the natural world.
Knapp (avid birder, father of three, and professor of biology) has plenty of experience engaging young people in the wonders of nature. His usual method is to take them outdoors to learn about birds. Birding may be the lesson plan, but life is the lesson. “Life is at its richest when we go outdoors together and keep our eyes open,” Knapp writes.
Arranged into short essays, this book is a perfect read for a busy parent or teacher. It’s never preachy; the stories are often quite funny, in fact. The title essay was sparked by a family road trip featuring a bird blind Knapp calls “the arachnid capital of the world.” Not all attempts to share nature with kids work smoothly.
But sometimes they do. In one of my favorite essays, “One Short of a Parliament,” Knapp engages his seven-year-old son’s curiosity by using the phrase “a murder of crows” to explain collective nouns. Knapp’s teaching style is so gentle that you don’t even realize you’re learning why “a scold of jays” makes sense but “a chain of bobolinks” does not.
From wildlife refuges to wastewater treatment plants to the wilds of Tanzania, birds—and opportunities to engage with nature—are all around us, as these essays prove. Wherever you are, however busy your life may be, Knapp’s curiosity and sense of wonder will send you eagerly outdoors, binoculars in hand and family in tow, to see what the birds are doing. It’s an inspiring read for anyone who wants to share a love for nature with young people.
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