If you enjoy spending time outside, chances are your bookshelves are already stuffed with environmental tomes and tales of outdoor adventure. We suggest you add to that collection with these must-have books relevant to anyone who works with youth outdoors.
BOOKS ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION
Whether or not you work in a traditional outdoor education setting, these books will help strengthen your knowledge base and inspire the programming you conduct when connecting children with the natural world.
Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education by David Sobel
Part of Orion Magazine’s Nature Literacy Series, this book offers practical tips and activities for adults to help children build their relationship with nature.
This collection of readings, activities, and articles from Rethinking Schools magazine is meant to help guide discussions and activities related to environmental issues, specifically climate change.
Coyote’s Guide to Connecting Kids with Nature by Jon Young, Ellen Haas, & Evan McGown
Writer Richard Louv (look for his work further down this list) wrote the forward to this outdoor education and activity guide and says that, “This is good medicine for nature-deficit disorder. Coyote’s Guide should become an essential resource for anyone who wants to revive their sense of kinship with nature but needs some help.”
Sharing Nature with Children by Joseph Bharat Cornell
This classic guide by one of the most respected names in outdoor education just celebrated its 20th anniversary, and an updated edition offers even more ways for children of all ages to connect with the outdoors.
A Pedagogy of Place: Outdoor Education for a Changing World by Brian Wattchow & Mike Brown)
This book looks at the historic theories and philosophies behind outdoor education and suggests culturally sensitive ways to improve upon past methods.
This text offers a practical guide to developing outdoor leadership skills. According to Paul Petzoldt, the founder of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), “It would be bad judgment to venture into the wild outdoors or even into your own career without reading and digesting this masterpiece.”
Another practical handbook for outdoor leaders, this is a great tool to learn how to assess and manage risk in outdoor education activities and programs.
Whether or not you’ve ever participated in an Outward Bound experience, this book is another great resource for leadership development.
BOOKS ABOUT CHILDREN OUTDOORS
While these are certainly applicable to any outdoor or environmental educator, these books tend to look a bit more broadly at the importance of connecting youth with the outdoors.
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
Richard Louv, co-founder of the Children & Nature Network, coined the term “nature deficit disorder” to describe the lack of connection between modern children and the natural world. Here, he explores just why that connection is so important. Once you’ve read Last Child, we’d also suggest you follow up with two of his other books: Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life, and The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder.
How to Raise a Wild Child by Scott Sampson
While the title implies this book is meant strictly for parents, it’s actually applicable to any adult who aims to help children develop their own relationship with the outdoors.
GENERAL OUTDOOR BOOKS
As if we haven’t already overloaded you with a massive reading list, here are a few other top picks to round out your collection!
The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams
Part travelogue, part pop psychology, part personal reflection, this book examines the now well-documented benefits of spending time outdoors.
Dr. Carolyn Finney examines history, culture, sociology, and environmental justice to offer a compelling exploration of racial dynamics in the outdoors.
“Classic handbook” is right – this volume covers a wide array of topics and skills important to anyone who spends time outdoors, especially while backpacking and/or in remote areas.
NOLS Wilderness Ethics: Valuing and Managing Wild Places by Jennifer Lamb
This book offers a great overview of land management along with associated ethics and best practices, while also digging into the back story of the wilderness movement.
top photo by Hitoshi Suzuki