978-0-86547-584-7 / 9780865475847

Noah's Children: Restoring the Ecology of Childhood


Publisher:North Point Press



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About the book:

Once upon a time -- until only half a century ago -- in city and country alike, children grew up mostly outdoors, in close communion with plants and animals, and with a hands-on understanding of how the things upon which daily life depended were grown, made, and used. When they weren't helping with the work of the household, they were exploring their surroundings, on their own or in one another's company, absorbed in the apparently aimless meandering and puttering that have enthralled children from time immemorial.

This unmediated experience of the landscape of childhood was just what nature ordered, Sara Stein says. Drawing upon her observations as daughter, mother, grandmother, and naturalist, she describes how the world unfolds meaningfully before the eyes and fingertips of a child. And using linguistics, biology, anthropology, and psychology, she illuminates the features human nature has wired our species to expect: a place we will explore and come to know intimately; resources that bear on our needs for food, shelter, and manufacture; a chance to develop skills through play; and growing involvement with a community that will need those skills and that will pass along to us, through myth and lore, a way to comprehend the relationship between nature and culture.

By showing us the ecology of childhood as it was meant to be, Stein helps us to understand how the environment with which we have supplanted it has encouraged children to become disappointed and diffident, to grow away from us as they grow up. She also shows us that it is within our grasp to resurrect in our own homes and back yards the essential physical and intellectual environment children need, and she offers dozens of thoughtful suggestions to that end.

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