What I like to see happening as children grow up is the development of a spirit of enquiry. I’m intensely interested in how we can help children not just to collect information but also to wonder how things work and ask why things are as they are. Books are one tool we can use, but certainly not the only one of course. When my children were small I had a collection of pictorial guides to living things and as soon as they could match shapes they could match a plant or animal they found with the pictures in the book. They were too young to read but matching shapes and patterns develops quite young. So at three years old they could identify the whelk shells we found on the beach, groundsel plants that the guinea pigs liked to eat and butterflies that settled on the buddleia. So which books could be helpful when you’re on the beach? First of all, make sure the book you choose is showing UK fauna and flora. There are lots of American books on the market which may be beautiful but not much use in the UK. Usborne non fiction books for children are well known and their Shells title in the Usborne Spotter’s Guide series has just about the right level of complexity for children … and lots of adults too. I'd be interested to hear from you if you can recommend any other titles.

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