When I was about 7 or 8, there were days when I loved nothing more than exploring in the woods with my dad... especially in the Autumn when we'd collect huge shiny conkers and copper-coloured leaves, spotting bunnies bouncing around in the fruit-filled hedgerows as we strolled home. The smell of the change of seasons used to fill the air with the sweet promise of a huge hot chocolate once we got there! :)
Other times, I'd run a little bit wild with my mates, getting muddy, spotting birds as they flew over the tree tops and we'd shout out their names, to see who could get them right the quickest! I think those days exploring outside and collecting nature's treasures with my dad, sewed the seeds for my love of the outdoors now I'm... err well, let's just say a bit older ;), so when we heard about the book 'The Lost Words' and book reviewer John Fish's mission to get a copy of it into every primary school in Somerset, we wanted to discover more - and thought you would too!
So, here are John's Four Thoughts... about this beautiful book, his campaign in Somerset and about why some words should never, ever be forgotten.
1. Can you tell us a bit about The Lost Words campaign and how it got started?
The Lost Words campaign started after the release of The Lost Words book by award winning writer Robert Macfarlane and acclaimed artist Jackie Morris, in October 2017. The Oxford Dictionary for Children had removed around 50 words relating to nature, such as Kingfisher, Conker, Heron, Otter, Acorn and Bluebell, to name just a few. Robert and Jackie came together to create a book of incredible ‘Spell-Poems’ and beautiful watercolours inspired by these words, to stand against them being forgotten and to encourage children to explore the outdoors and their natural surroundings.
A few months later in Scotland, a school bus driver and travel consultant, Jane Beaton, was so moved by the book that she spearheaded a fundraising campaign that has now raised over £25,000 - to make sure every school in Scotland receives a copy of The Lost Words. The idea soon spread across the country, as more and more people read the book and started their own local and county campaigns. Currently there are about 16 fundraising campaigns, all with the sole aim of making sure their local schools get a copy of The Lost Words. It's now a movement to bring these words to everyone's attention, because if we're not careful they could be lost in children’s vocabulary forever.
As a book reviewer, I get to review many books and I've been supporting The Wainwright Prize over the last few years. This year, The Lost Words was shortlisted for the prize. I met both Robert and Jackie and spoke of my hope of bringing The Lost Words to every Somerset Primary School. They've both been incredible with their support of this project that launched in August.
2. Why do you feel it’s so important for the book to be in Somerset’s Primary Schools and for future generations to keep hold of these words?
We're so blessed in the county of Somerset, with such wonderful natural habitats from the coastline to the Quantocks, Brendon Hills to the Somerset Levels and the rich wildlife that makes these special places their home. With so much green belt land now being built on though, this sadly puts the wildlife under enormous pressure.
Children are the future custodians of these areas of incredible beauty, but how can they be if we're losing words that connect children to nature? It's a worrying concept. Words, books and nature are so important to children - and have a huge imapct on their health and wellbeing. To think that we've lost 50 words already from the dictionary... who's to say that in the years ahead, 50 won't become 80, or more? This needs to not only be stopped, but also reversed... and that's definitely where The Lost Words comes in. The campaign is about rallying around this magical book, to bring the words back to the classroom and beyond.
3. How can people get involved in The Lost Words campaign…and do you have any favourite words of your own?
I've set up a fundraising campaign with the aim of raising £2,500, to make sure every Primary School in Somerset would receive a copy of The Lost Words - if we hit that target. The hope is though, that the more money we raise, the more books I can buy and send to other schools, learning centres and children’s hospitals. Fundraising runs until the 10th of October and people can make donations by visiting my Crowdfunding page at: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-lost-words-for-somerset-primary-schools Every donation, no matter how large or small, is a huge help and the publisher, Penguin/Random House, has been incredibly generous by offering the book at more than a 50% discount for our fundraising efforts.
As far as my own favourite words go, I'd have to say all of them! We simply cannot afford to lose any words that are connected to nature.
4. Tell us a secret about The Lost Words that no-one else knows!
A few exciting projects connected to The Lost Words are coming in 2019. There's an exciting eight-piece band called 'The Lost Words - Spell Songs' that will be touring parts of the UK, with specially written songs connected to the book. An album will be released in the Summer. At this very moment, there's also an audio version of The Lost Words being recorded by some well-known celebrities. It will be available to download on 18th October, with the CD version out in January 2019.
Well, we absolutely love this book and are full of admiration for John and his mission. We've made our own donation to the cause and if you'd like to help make sure these words aren't forgotten in Somerset, please do visit John's crowdfunding link. Together we can raise the final amount needed (around £150).
We'd also say, pick up a copy of the book. It's a gorgeous read for grown-ups and children at heart, too! :)
All watercolour images in this blog are from the book The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. You can follow John Fish on Twitter and Instagram and check out our Twitter for updates on his progress too.