Monday, June 2, 2008

Mama Joules' Young Birder

Kerm Takes Aim

Photo credit: Mama Joules

Way to go, Kerm! Mama Joules’ sometimes guest blogger and favorite resident six-year-old has won a copy of The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of Eastern North America by Bill Thompson, III from our friends at 10,000 Birds. You can read Kerm’s winning essay along with some wonderful tips for engaging young birders at How to Get Kids Excited About Birds.

But if you want to encourage a child’s interest in nature and seem to have hit a brick wall, I have an interesting story for you. This is what actually happened when Kerm and I sat down to write his birding essay:

“Why do you like birding?” I asked, expecting a quick answer.

He looked at me blankly and started to fidget. “I don’t know.”

“Well,” I said, gently. “Why did you start birding?”

“You made me.”

Ouch! Is that true? I felt my stomach lurch. Did I really *make him* go birding? I thought back to when I had purchased his first bird identification guide. He was so small that he could barely write his name inside the cover. Does he even like birding? Maybe he’s been faking it all this time.

I took a deep breath and tried a different tactic. “What’s fun about birding?”

This time his face lit up and a torrent of words rushed out. “I like the sounds that birds make and I like their colorful feathers …” He then proceeded to tell me all about bird calls and different types of plumage.

As I sat back and listened, I was struck by the awesome power of the words that we speak to our children. For me, there was no difference between these two questions about birding. But for Kerm, one sentence led to a brick wall. The other opened the door of communication.

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