‘Speaking for the Trees’: Representations of Environmental Issues in Children’s Literature and the Implications for Environmental Education

With Dr Ross Buckingham

Reflecting on the conclusions made as part of my doctoral thesis at the University of Cambridge, this presentation explores the ways in which children’s literature can persuasively model ecologically attuned attitudes and practices, as well as open up spaces for young readers to reinforce, challenge and augment their own ideas in relation to the natural world and associated environmental issues.

More specifically, by means of literary analyses and empirical research, I reflect upon the distinctive qualities of children’s literature and analyse the modes of environmental engagement that these texts can potentially afford young readers. By exploring the quality of thought and the responses engendered in research participants by children’s literature, I also analyse the meaning derived from the synergetic relationship between the visual and the verbal in these texts and how the genre can engage and affect young readers’ attitudes towards nature in urban and other environments. Furthermore, this presentation details how children’s literature can afford young readers opportunities to reflect upon, affirm and extend their own notions of nature, as well as explore dilemmas and contradictions that pertain to the current climate crisis. 

With due consideration of the role of the National Committee UK Working Group for Education and Communication – supporting the work of the IUCN World Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) and its initiatives – this presentation concludes with action points that would enable the ECWG to connect research and practice in relation to the CEC’s thematic work areas in a UK context. These areas include: ‘Nature for All’; Nature Education for Sustainability; Youth Engagement and Intergenerational Partnerships; and ‘Reimagining Conservation’.


Dr Ross Buckingham

BEd (Hons), MPhil, PhD (Cantab), QTS, NPQLT

Ross has taught and led curriculum areas in five countries and across four key stages during his twenty years in the teaching profession. In 2020, Ross graduated from the University of Cambridge with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Education and has since presented academic papers on ecocriticism, environmental education and representations of the natural world in children’s literature. Ross is now Head of English and Head of House at Shrewsbury House School: an outstanding IAPS Independent Prep School and one of the oldest prep schools in the United Kingdom.

This webinar will be chaired by Sophie Stenson, Chair of the NCUK’s CEC working group. 

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