Read our author Interview: Patrick Barkham
From climbing trees and making dens, to building sandcastles and pond-dipping, many of the activities we associate with a happy childhood take place outdoors. And yet, the reality for many contemporary children is very different. The studies tell us that we are raising a generation who are so alienated from nature that they can't identify the commonest birds or plants, they don't know where their food comes from, they are shuttled between home, school and the shops and spend very little time in green spaces – let alone roaming free.
In this timely and personal book, celebrated nature writer Patrick Barkham draws on his own experience as a parent and a forest school volunteer to explore the relationship between children and nature. Unfolding over the course of a year of snowsuits, muddy wellies, and sunhats, Wild Child is both an intimate story of children finding their place in natural world, and a celebration of the delight we can all find in even modest patches of green.
"Patrick Barkham is as likeable and accessible as an author as he is in person, and this is a book that almost reads itself. It could be summarised in one sentence, but doing so would deprive the reader of a delightful journey, full of tender humour and truths which most will recognise, if not as a parent, then as someone who was once a child. I was always going to approve, because Patrick and I agree on the principle that access to nature is a human right. And having a nine-year-old child myself, I believe wholeheartedly that this right matters most especially to children. Hence I was immediately hooked by one of the book’s opening statements, that ‘The idea that a child, of say, nine would roam without adult company through copses and spinneys close to home is anathema’ and the quantification of the curtailment of an average child’s freedom within one generation – from a radius of kilometres in the 1960s and 70s to little more than the confines of a garden, if they are lucky [...] ultimately, Wild Child is a dandelion book. Cheery, familiar, not very big (I read it in a few hours), sometimes bold, sometimes delicate, but with roots that grow fast and deep and little idea seeds that might travel and flourish almost anywhere. It is a manifesto for change in education and, by extension, in our wider treatment of nature. Not just for childhood’s sake, but because humans in nature tend to be better humans. I hope that its seeds spread far and wide."
– Amy-Jane Beer, British Wildlife 31(6), August 2020
"Patrick Barkham mounts a passionate argument for giving children more time outside engaging elegant and moving Barkham writes beautifully The book brims with tender scenes and small epiphanies."
– Horatio Clare, Financial Times
"Patrick is a fantastic author [...] Wild Child is really charming [...] it's a book which instils seeds which will grow in your mind."
– Chris Packham
"Entrancing [...] If ever there was a book to fuel the ecological interest of future generations, this is it. An inspiration for parents, grandparents and teachers, it is equally about showing adults how to recover their own joie de vivre."
– Isabella Tree, author of Wilding
"In this engaging part-memoir, part polemic, Barkham argues for greater access to the natural world for all children, at a time when we appear to be raising a generation almost totally alienated from it."
– Bookseller, Editor's Choice
"A thought-provoking exploration of the value of getting your children outside provides heaps of evidence on the educational value of outdoor play."
– Lorraine Candy, Sunday Times Magazine