Friday, 6 October 2017

Badger or Bulbasaur - have children lost touch with nature?

Studies show that children are better at identifying Pokémon characters than real animals and plants. Robert Macfarlane on his quest to reconnect young readers with the natural world

Saturday 30 September 2017 10.00 BST

In August 1913 the children’s writer Eleanor Farjeon visited the poet Edward Thomas and his family at their home near the South Downs. On their first walk together, Thomas’s 11-year-old daughter Bronwen realised that the city-dwelling Farjeon knew few of the names of the wild flowers that flourished in the surrounding landscape. “My ignorance,” Farjeon recalled later, “horrified her.”

Remedial work was promptly set. Bronwen gathered a hundred different flowers and plants, taught Farjeon their names (“agrimony, mouse-eared-hawkweed, bird’s-foot trefoil … ”), and the next day sat her down “to a neatly ruled examination paper, with the numbered specimens laid out in precise order on the table”. Farjeon was given an hour to complete the test: “60 for a Pass, 70 for Honours.” Her memory was sharp and she topped 90: “Bronwen was proud of me.” Those flower names would later blossom in Farjeon’s books for children, which are twined through with natural lore, notably her chalkland fairy fable, Elsie Piddock Skips in Her Sleep (1937) and her Martin Pippin stories.

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