This Book Collects “Lost Words” To Teach Children About The Magic Of The Outdoors

This Book Collects “Lost Words” To Teach Children About The Magic Of The Outdoors
Children

Author Robert Macfarlane's new illustrated book seeks to reestablish the connection between children and nature

Matt Vitone
  • 5 october 2017

What kind of sounds do birds make? And what about the smell of moss? These are sensations today’s generation of smartphone-using kids are increasing unaware of, so much so that one author has written an entire book dedicated to “lost words” from times when kids used to play outdoors.

The Lost Words is the name of a new 128-page spelling book by Robert Macfarlane, with illustrations from the artist Jackie Morris, that catalogs words related to nature that have slowly fallen out of popular use in the age of the internet. The book uses an acrostic approach to teach kids words like “acorn,” “fern,” “otter,” and “kingfisher,” among others.

The book was partially written in reaction to changes Oxford made to the “Junior” edition of its dictionary in 2007 (and again in 2012), removing words like “blueberry,” “moss,” “cauliflower,” and “clover,” and replacing them with more techy lingo like “blog,” “broadband,” and “database.” While Oxford defended its decision, saying in part that its dictionaries are only designed to “reflect language as it is used,” in 2015 a group of authors including Macfarlane criticised Oxford decisions in an open letter.

“Childhood is undergoing profound change; some of this is negative; and the rapid decline in children’s connections to nature is a major problem,” they wrote. Macfarlane further alludes to this in the introduction of his new book, where he stresses the importance of understanding the natural world, and all of the words associated with it.

“Once upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children. They disappeared so quietly that at first almost no one noticed – fading away like water on stone. The words were those that children used to name the natural world around them: acorn, adder, bluebell, bramble, conker – gone! Fern, heather, kingfisher, otter, raven, willow, wren…all of them gone! The words were being lost…”

The Lost Words was published on October 5 by Penguin Random House UK’s Hamish Hamilton imprint.

The Lost Words


Lead Image: Daiga Ellaby via Unsplash

What kind of sounds do birds make? And what about the smell of moss? These are sensations today’s generation of smartphone-using kids are increasing unaware of, so much so that one author has written an entire book dedicated to “lost words” from times when kids used to play outdoors.

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