Did you know that one of the best ways to instill a love of nature in your kids is to spend time reading nature-related books and talking about what you read? It is true and it makes sense. While playing and exploring the outdoors does create a certain amount of connection with nature (and is an essential part of childhood), it is when kids start to understand what they are seeing that a true fascination and love forms. So besides watching nature-related media, reading is the best way for kids to gain knowledge about nature.
Because of this somewhat new revelation I am always on the lookout for good nature-related books. So I was more than excited when I had the opportunity to interview author and photographer David FitzSimmons. He has written no less than six children’s book about wildlife and is currently working another. David is also a Sigma Pro photographer who specializes in nature photography and freelance writer.
What influenced your love of the outdoors?
My Dad was an outdoor educator, so throughout my youth I was surrounded by animals and other kinds of nature. He spent countless hours with my Mom, my brothers, and me exploring nature.
How did you get involved with writing children’s books?
My Mom was an elementary school teacher, and I attended many children’s literature conferences with her growing up. In graduate school I studied narrative theory—how stories work. With my love of the outdoors, it was a natural fit for me to write children’s books about nature. I first tried out my high key, or white background, photography technique during an ad campaign for Sigma, my photographic sponsor. I loved the technique so much that I turned the images into my picture book series, Curious Critters.
Salamander Dance is a very unique book. What inspired you to write it?
Every spring growing up my dad, brothers and I would explore ponds looking for salamanders. In the course of my work, I discovered that there were no children’s books about vernal ponds and the animals that call them home. So, I decided to write one.
You have three daughters of your own now and are busy with photography, travel and writing. How do you make time for the outdoors as a family?
We make time after school every day for the outdoors. We are lucky to live about three miles from a state park; but, if we don’t have time to explore there, we head to our backyard. My wife and I hand-dug a vernal pond behind our house, and we are surrounded with woods and fields. So there is no shortage of opportunities for exploring and fun.
I am also lucky that I can take my family on a lot of my work travels. We travel all across North America, learning about people and their environments.
What are your family’s favorite outdoor activities?
Our goal is to give our kids plenty of opportunities for free play and to explore nature. So, while we love to hike and garden, we spend a significant amount of time allowing our kids to “lead” our adventures. My friend, Richard Louv, author of Last Child In The Woods and founder of the Children and Nature Network, and I agree that kids need free play in nature.
Here are the two books I have the opportunity to read and share with my kids.
This is a seriously fun book for kids. All of the animals and insects are set against a white background. Seemed odd to me at first but then I realized with all the background noise removed you can really focus on the details of the animals. It allows you to see what you might not have if there were other distractions in the pictures.
- Curious Critters: Volume Two
- Curious Critters: Marine
- Curious Critters: Ohio
- Curious Critters: Texas
- Curious Critters: Michigan
This is truly one-of-a-kind book as it is the only kids’ book about vernal ponds. What are vernal ponds you ask? They are temporary ponds that form in the spring from snow melt and rain. They generally disappear as the summer progresses but during the spring they provide essential habitat for salamanders and other amphibians. Because these ponds are temporary they do not hold fish like permanent ponds, rivers and lakes so they provide the needed habitat for young salamanders and amphibians.
Don’t forget to continue to talk about what you see and read at home. Talking about nature and environmental issues at home is another effective way to help your kids learn to love nature.
Even more books that inspire kids to explore nature:
- Buddy Bison’s Yellowstone Adventure
- Bringing the Outside In
- Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle
- The Truth About Nature
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