For people to want to change something, they’ve got to care. And to care, they have to understand. And what better time to start raising that understanding than when they are kids? Cue my mini-library to connect kids with local biodiversity issues.
I’ve just returned from a weekend camping in the wonderful Dryandra Woodland, one of the few places where Western Australia’s mammal emblem, the numbat, still exists in the wild. Dryandra also boasts two predator-free fenced enclosures at a site called Barna Mia. Barna Mia houses six nocturnal species, many now extinct on the mainland, and only one of which I’ve ever seen outside of fenced sanctuaries. All we needed to make the weekend perfect were books.
We took three books about the animals we hoped to see. The actual titles will change depending on where you live, but the basics are the same:
- a picture book for bedtime reading
- a simple guidebook for interesting facts, and
- a book to help make it all real when we were out in the middle of it.
‘Baby Bilby, where do you sleep?’ by Narelle Oliver
I found this at my local library, it’s a great read featuring many lesser known Australian species, including the bilby. Bilby were one of the mammals we hoped to see on our night-stalk in the fenced enclosure (and we did! Yay!). The book also has fabulous illustrations with hidden creatures, and my daughter loved the challenge of finding them all.
Fun, simple, not preachy. A good read for raising awareness, that comes in a format young kids are used to.
‘Wildlife Identikit – South-west Jarrah Forests and Nearby Woodlands’ by Mark Garkaklis
Okay, so this one doesn’t even seem available anymore, but it’s a wonderful pocket sized book I own that details facts about many mammals and reptiles in our local area. It was the perfect combo with the picture book above, giving more information when needed.
It’s not a sit-down-and-read-through book for a child, but it has pictures and interesting facts. We skimmed through it several times to get ideas on what we might see, and where we might see them.
Tying it all together
‘Tracks, scats and other traces – A field guide to Australian mammals’ by Barbara Trigg
Yeah, what kid doesn’t want to an excuse to look at poos and footprints! When you’re scrabbling for something to keep their minds off how tired they think their legs are on a hike, you need a book like this! Where we were walking there was the chance of spiky echidnas, elusive numbats and precious woylies, all digging around the place. This book helped us decide who might have dug which hole.
It has great pictures of footprints, scats (poos) and diggings. Surrounded by sun and wildflowers, my daughter delighted in turning simple observations into science. She kept stopping to point out this dig or that print.
It was wonderful to see her enthusiasm.
She’s four. She doesn’t need to understand how easily we could lose these precious animals, or comprehend how many people are fighting to reverse the species’ declines. She knows these animals exist, she is excited by them, and she knows they’re special. So did all the other wonderful kids at Barna Mia with us.
And that’s more than enough for me.