THOUGHTS OF EARTH DAY, SEASHELLS AND FIREFLIES
Earlier this month, I traveled to Tallahassee, Florida, to receive the Gold Medal/Reichert Award in the children’s literature category of the 2015 Florida Book Awards for my picture book, IT’S A SEASHELL DAY.
I stayed on after the FBA events to participate in the Word of South festival of literature and music (http://www.wordofsouthfestival.com), doing a mini-workshop at the storytelling area for kids and appearing as a member of the FBA winners speaker panel for grownups.
There were just three of us: Susan Cerulean, http://comingtopass, Gold Medal winner for Florida non-fiction for her adult title, Coming to Pass: Florida’s Coastal Islands in a Gulf of Change with photographs by David Moynahan (University of Georgia, 2015); Patrick Kendrick, http://www.talesofpatrickkendrick.com/#!, author of the Silver Medal award in the Young Adult category for his novel The Savants; and myself, an author of books for the very youngest reader. On the surface, there was not much we had in common. But it quickly emerged that our work had a common thread: saving the world.
Susan began with a wonderful speech about her work in environmental research, writing and advocacy, and how this manifested in her latest book about the little necklace of northern Gulf Coast islands which are now in ecological peril. She spoke with such passion and commitment. I could not help but think (and mention when my turn came to speak) that if the world wanted more grownups dedicated to “doing right” by our natural world, we needed to read them picture books that focused on a healthy relationship with nature. We needed to create an early awareness of the Earth’s wonders as well as a respect for it. If we wanted to to raise a new generation of environmentalists (and our world will surely need a strong army to protect it in the coming decades), it was up to today’s grownups to read books like IT’S A SEASHELL DAY and my 2013 Silver Medal winner, IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT to kids. Kids needed daily exposure to the many books about weather, animals, plants, and geology to get the ball rolling, we all agreed.
Patrick’s novel about a team of teen savants who are assembled by a leading scientist with a quest to save the world from a threat to our coastal areas might be fiction, but his theme of young people joining together under the mentorship of saving a world in trouble dovetailed beautifully, leading to a discussion of how school and community programs can help raise awareness of ecological issues needing group efforts to bring about change. Again, the role of educating, and motivating the next generation to save our natural world was discussed in the context of how can we, as grownups, raise future generations who will guard the Earth’s natural resources in a way that is more responsible, perhaps, than our current generation?
Creating and reading great books about the natural world is only the beginning.
The next step is taking real children out into the real world with an important grownup by their sides. We can act as guides, as teachers, and as fellow nature lovers. As we express our delight in the Earth’s gifts together, we also impart a feeling of respect for nature. One child at a time, we surely can create a new generation of eco-friendly world citizens. A wonderful side effect of this scientific experiment might be strengthening our ties to the little ones we love.
So this Earth Day, why not celebrate by reading about the wonders of nature? That’s what I plan to do! If you’d like some ideas about good Earth Day book choices, ask a friendly librarian or booksellers for recommendations. Or search the internet for titles of note. Here are just a few reading lists posted online to start your exploration: