Rod Campbell on showing children how to protect our world
In the light of his new book Look After Us, Rod Campbell, prolific children's author and creator of the classic storybook Dear Zoo, writes about guiding children towards protecting our planet and its wonderful wildlife.
Children are naturally drawn to animals, whether in real life or in the pages of a picture book. Rod Campbell, much-loved author of Dear Zoo, describes how he wrote Look After Us to introduce young people to the concept of animal conservation. His book is a gentle call to action to kids, to nurture their awareness of climate change and the dangers facing wildlife – and to celebrate when the numbers of an endangered species increase.
Thanks to David Attenborough and people like him, climate change and conservation are issues that most people have heard about and are sympathetic to. We are all aware these days of the threat of extinction to many wild animals we share the planet with and the need to do something to help safeguard those populations that are diminishing so quickly. Young children are fascinated by and love wild animals and react to them with awe and respect, and the notion that the animals they see today may be extinct when they grow up means that we really must do something about it.
It is so important to make children aware of the problem and how we can all help in saving wild animals. Even the youngest child is taught to look after and care for the things they love, and Look After Us is very gently putting across the message that by ‘looking after and keeping safe’ wild animals we will always have these wonderful creatures.
‘It is so important to make children aware of the problem and how we can all help in saving wild animals. Even the youngest child is taught to look after and care for the things they love . . .’
How to approach this difficult subject for such a young audience was helped by what I knew about the saving of whales – their numbers had been diminishing for years, until relatively recently when they were finally protected and as a consequence are now thriving. They are a perfect example of what can be done when we change our attitude to this global problem and do the best we can to support essential conservation of animals and habitats.
So I used whales on the last page of the book (with a large flap to reveal lots of them) as a sharp contrast to the threatened animals on earlier pages which are not as well protected, are often losing their natural habitats and their numbers are rapidly declining to the point where ‘there are not many left’ as the text tells us and the flap on each page reveals. I feel sure the young child will understand that actively looking after wild animals will ensure them always being with us.
‘I feel sure the young child will understand that actively looking after wild animals will ensure them always being with us. ’
The book is a very simple introduction to basic animal conservation in language young children will understand. I would like to think that it will be helpful to parents and caretakers when they are talking to the youngest children about our world; how we must look after it, and include caring for wild animals and the habitats they live in.
I don’t think one can talk of the curse of poaching, but rather where the animals live and how we are destroying their habitats. The latter can be explained with the example of tree-dwelling animals whose ‘homes’ are being cut down around the world. Children will rightly find this very strange and not right at all. Of course the conversation will broaden as they grow older but these early years have an important role as so much is absorbed at their age and will be retained and built on as they get older.
‘Of course the conversation will broaden as they grow older but these early years have an important role as so much is absorbed at their age and will be retained and built on as they get older. ’
Hopefully the book will plant a seed which will be nurtured as the young child grows up, and develop in them a concern for our planet and a desire to help in the conservation of our threatened wildlife and habitats.