In defence of childhood

We almost missed an excellent initiative by a group of writers, back in January of this year, in petitioning Oxford University Press to reverse their exclusion from the Oxford Junior Dictionary of many examples of the vocabulary and vernacular of British nature — including, incredibly, ‘acorn’, ‘bluebell’, ‘conker’ — in some misguided attempt at ‘modernisation’. We ask you!!!

To quote from their open letter:

This is what the National Trust says in their Natural Childhood campaign: Every child should have the right to connect with nature. To go exploring, sploshing, climbing, and rolling in the outdoors, creating memories that’ll last a lifetime. Their list of 50 things to do before you’re 11 3⁄4 includes many for which the OJD once had words, but no longer: like playing conkers, picking blackberries, various trees to climb, minnows to catch in a net and so on.

The RSPB has commissioned a great deal of research on this. Among many findings is the fact that outdoor activity in nature appears to improve symptoms of ADHD in children by 30% compared with urban outdoor activities and 300% compared with the indoor environment.

It is no surprise that these and other organisations, including the NHS and Play England, Play Scotland and Play Wales have come together to create The Wild Network dedicated to reconnecting children and their families to nature – and to each other.

You can read the entire letter on the excellent Caught by the River website. This is a very worthwhile cause and we do hope that OUP bows to the argument presented.

However we were interested to spot, among some thirty signatories, the name of Jim Perrin. The irony of his name appearing in support of the institution of childhood will not be lost on our readers, nor, were they to read it, on his own estranged and unsupported children, who have yet to see any benefit from the work of the Child Maintenance Service (formerly the Child Support Agency). In case it assists the CMS, given Jim Perrin’s assiduously vague and changing UK domicile, we have informed them of the address and phone number of his far more durable French bolt-hole.