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Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder [Hardcover]

Richard Louv
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

10 May 2008
In this influential work about the staggering divide between children and the outdoors, child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today's wired generation - he calls it nature-deficit - to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS is the first book to bring together a new and growing body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. More than just raising an alarm, Louv offers practical solutions and simple ways to heal the broken bond - and they are right in our own backyard.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (10 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565123913
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565123915
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,349,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
IF, WHEN WE WERE YOUNG, we tramped through forests of Nebraska cottonwoods, or raised pigeons on a rooftop in Queens, or fished for Ozark bluegills, or felt the swell of a wave that traveled a thousand miles before lifting our boat, then we were bound to the natural world and remain so today. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
By Eira
It's a sad truth that the perople who really need to read this long-overdue book are the ones who never will. If you're reading this then, yes, this book does just wehat it ssays on the tin. Buy it!
This book covers so many things that concern society but which are ignored as, simply, there's no 'market' for this. Why are so many things in society getting worse? Why are people so damn miserable when they have so much better health, food and entertainment than their ancestors? Because there's something very simple and basic missing.
One thing to point out about this book is that it is NOT (To quote South Park) 'A load of Tree Hugging Hippie Cr*p' and it's not trying to 'Turn the clock back' or 'Deny progres'. It's a calmly assessed, properly researched book which points out what's increasingly missing in the lives of kids - and thus people -all over the globe.
Unlike our generation (By which, I mean, anyone old enough to be reading this review), todays kids of the Supermarket and Play Area never experience any kind of freedom in anything like 'nature'. They'll have been on trips to zoos and swimming pools, taken to other countries and seen more nature videos than we ever did, and they'll have had the whole gamut of ecological information rammed down their throats as something sad, responsible and Important, but the world of 'Nature' is merely academic knowledge, not a personal experience. They've never run randomly in a wood, climbing any tree they feel like, never laid in a bunch of grass staring at clouds or trying to catch crickets. They won't have just walked along an overgrown path, wacking stinging nettles with a stick. They'll have missed out on the value of mucking about with nature - that it doesn't include Words.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important book 24 Mar 2009
This should be read by every parent and teacher. It makes the point that children need nature, just as nature needs humans to look after it. A must-read for everyone else too!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
As a very digestable piece of literature, Dr. Richard Louv has caused a ripple which caused a stir which hopefully will bring a wave of realisation to international governments that amount of available green space (particularly amidst urban environments) is directly linked to health and wellbeing...but then probably not. For similar theories & nature-based concepts look up Shifting Baseline Syndrome, Biodiversity: The Ecosystem Approach & the re-wilding projects implemented at Dutch coastal sites. Every school should have a copy to read comunally during lesson time (again you may say i'm a dreamer etc).
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, not brilliant 6 Feb 2008
This book is a good look into what is happening to children today. It claims that a lack of contact with nature and/or a lack of free play in an unsupervised place is causing problems both for the way people view the environment (as people with little/no knowledge of it) and for people too (he suggests links with ADHD).

It is however written by an American for Amercians, and most of the content is focused on US examples, this is not inherantly a bad thing just a little annoying as someone in the UK. It also has a short preachy Christian chapter in it; which you may like, but as an atheist I thought was unnecessary.

The author is at pains to point out that Nature-Deficit Disorder isn't a recognised medical condition, but that it is a way to look at the problems and way to find potential soluntions arsing from TV/computer based play.

Perhaps 3 stars is a little harsh, as it is easy to read, and well thought through. It just seems to be resting on one person's interpretation and not factual enough. I guess if you have kids it will appeal/connect to you more than it did to me.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  89 reviews
196 of 203 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unplug your kids - this book will convince you 23 May 2005
By Jon Wurtmann - Published on
I'm old enough to remember an unplugged childhood, and although I want my kids to play unfettered in the woods and waters, we're a different society today. We can't just let them wander alone, but we also owe them the natural formative experiences we enjoyed like building forts, treehouses and teepees, catching fish, frogs and critters, and observing nature - in nature, not through the TV. Although we try to limit the exposure to electronica - it's a pervasive force in modern life. Louv shows through dozens of examples where kids today get their lessons and experiences - more often than not through the TV or computer screen. He's concerned that a new generation of children is growing up detatched from the earth, who view it simply as a resource to be mined, drilled, and sold. He sees children losing the wonder of nature, and the earth losing a generation of would-be caretakers.

As parents we don't have to move to Montana, or trap our meals to make a positive impact. It can be many little things, like catching fireflies, wading in a small stream with your kids, following animal tracks in the snow. These are all no cost and high-benefit activities that we can do with our kids to introduce them to the wonder that lies just outside our doors.

This book is a call to action. I'm giving it to the principal at my son's elementary school. If you have kids, are thinking about having kids, or are concerned with the future of childhood - READ THIS BOOK!

We had unplugged the tv for a few months and, frankly, were wavering. (We miss it too). After reading Last Child in the Woods, the TV is staying in the cellar. Maybe for the long haul!
144 of 151 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Its pure common sense - get kids out of the house, get them moving and have them see the REAL world 13 Dec 2005
By Kcorn - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
My "wake up call" came when my friend from the city brought her toddler to my home and the little girl cried in terror when her mother tried to get her to put her bare feet on the lawn, a lawn that was free of anything dangerous. We don't have a dog so there weren't even any "droppings" to worry about.

A baby who was scared to touch ground? Her mother admitted that her offspring had never felt grass because her mother feared it might be too full of "germs". I urged her to at least let her daughter smell a handful of freshly picked clover but she looked at me as though I were crazy.

I then told her of summers spent barefoot, of exploring creeks and finding crayfish and even some snakes, of coming across a newborn fawn in the woods, etc.

That's when I realized that there could be a whole generation of children losing touch with the natural world around them and I started paying attention to the kids and teens in our neighborhood. Sure enough, very few of them were climbing trees, exploring creeks, walking through the nearby woods. Very few of them built forts or learned the joy of wading in a cold stream or simply lying on the grass and looking up at the clouds, listening to the birds or trying to identify the different types of trees in the neighborhood. All of these things were common activities for me as a child (admittedly, during a time when tv channels were limited to 3 or 4 and there weren't video games or cellphones).

If there is ONE POINT this book makes, it is that parents need to make an effort to help their children discover nature. Whether it is because parents are too busy or too fearful to let their children discover nature or whether kids have too many electronic devices to distract them and which prevent them from automatically turning to the pleasures of the outside world, the result is that children spend more and more time indoors and less time being active.

Is it any wonder that there is an epidemic of childhood obesity? I'm not naive enough to suggest that spending time outside will cure obesity but I DO believe that it might encourage children to at least contemplate the idea of running through a grassy field, climbing a tree (carefully and respectfully) or simply chasing a butterfly through a meadow, trying to see where it goes.

Most of all, this book might help both parents and children realize that nature can be as mysterious, powerful and awesome as any video game or television show (I'd say even MORE so). If our children, our future generations, are going to learn to care about the environment and preserving the wonders that are out there, it is up to parents, teachers and other role models in their lives to foster that appreciation...and, hopefully, that passion...early on.
34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Children. Outside. Playing. How intriguing... 3 Jun 2005
By Brian Sweatland - Published on
An intriguing and thought-provoking work about our failures as parents, educators, and community planners to provide opportunities for unfettered nature play to our children, and the consequences of this oversight. According to Louv, in "Last Child in the Woods," the lack of opportunities for unstructured nature play, the decline of close-to-home open space, and the rise in programmed sporting activities are all contributing to a condition he labels "Nature Deficit Disorder." Although going to great pains to point out that this is not an identified medical disorder, it remains Louv's hypothesis that the modern disconnect between children and nature can and is to be blamed as a contributing factor to ADHD, obesity, lack of creativity, a loss of respect for nature and the living world, and a number of other social ills. Backed by lots of fascinating interviews, anecdotes, and research, Louv lays out a compelling argument for changing some modern social arrangements (educators, lawyers, and over-protective parents take a few lumps here) and letting today's children play the way we played as children: set them free in the outdoors, and let their imaginations do the work that we too often allow computer games and TV to do for them. Although the book drags a little the last 40 pages or so, it's only because Louv has already won you over to his argument. I highly recommend this work for local planners, educators, parents, and all others concerned about the disconnect between today's youth and the natural world.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Louv hits the nail on the head! 2 Aug 2005
By Dave Van Manen - Published on
As a parent, grandparent and professional in the field of environmental education, I found Last Child In The Woods an excellent resource that supports what I have discovered first hand as the Director of an environmental center. It is a sad testimony of our times, the disconnection between people, especially children, and the natural world, that this book documents so accurately. Our research indicates that, of the thousands of 10 and 11 year olds that we have worked with (who live in a front range city in Colorado), over 60% have never taken a hike and 80% have never been to the mountains prior to participating in one of our programs. The long term negative implications of such statistics to the future of the environmental movement are clear to me - how will children grow up into adult citizens who advocate for the natural world if they have no direct knowledge of it? What Louv documents so well is how such disconnection from Nature negatively imapcts the health and well-being of individuals. I beleive that all parents and educators, as well as anyone interested in the health of our children and the health of our communities, will find very important information in this book.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye opening 12 Nov 2006
By Cem Soykan - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book engages one to think about the subject of how to bring a child up in this world without preaching. It presents facts, and it presents the shortcomings of the information it has available, but asks the question what would be wrong with trying to change.

I have never read a book before that made me think as much as this book did. It rekindled old memories of childhood that were almost forgotten, it encourage me to strike up conversations with strangers who asked what I was reading about, and it converted me into an almost preacher for this book.

The book is not a non stop page turner, but it was fun to read; made my eyes well up with emotion several times; and most of all encouraged me to think about a subject that I did not realize had so much meaning to me.
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