Fostering A Sense of Wonder with Reading the Redwoods

Reading the Redwoods contest. Photo by Annie Burke
Photo by Annie Burke

Rachel Carson is one of my great heroes. Her book Silent Spring, written in 1962, directly led not only to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency – one of our nation’s greatest gifts to future generations – but also to many other beneficial changes in governmental policy. For this reason, Silent Spring has rightly been called “one of the 25 greatest science books of all time.”

But it’s Rachel Carson’s smaller book, A Sense of Wonder, that I keep on my desk and receive inspiration from daily.

“The lasting pleasures of contact with the natural world are not reserved for scientists but are available to anyone who will place [themselves] under the influence of earth, sea and sky and their amazing life.” Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder, 1956

In A Sense of Wonder, Carson describes her time walking through forests and exploring the beaches near her home in Maine with her young nephew, Roger. She meditates on the importance of falling in love with the natural world around us. She writes that before we can hear and understand the science, we must establish an emotional connection with nature. We must get people out to hear the crickets chirping, smell the fragrant mountain air, and see the majestic redwood trees. That’s how we understand the stakes – the great value of conserving nature and our fellow creatures.

Carson’s words continually inspire and re-enforce my belief in the importance of three things: spending time in nature, reading books, and encouraging a sense of wonder in every person. In the process of living out those beliefs, I have written over 30 books, including children’s books, nonfiction nature books, and over a dozen novels including The Ancient One and the Merlin Saga. Glad to serve as a Save the Redwoods League Councilor, I’m proud to be an ambassador for the Reading the Redwoods contest.

Reading the Redwoods, a free online contest for kids in grades K-5 throughout the U.S., embodies the spirit of A Sense of Wonder and delivers it in thoroughly modern ways. Through this contest, Save the Redwoods League is bringing the redwoods to more children, regardless of where they live, and connecting families to forests and nature through reading and stories.

Participants in Reading the Redwoods will complete these easy and fun activities:

  1. Read books
  2. Listen to stories
  3. Create and share their own photos or artwork
  4. Observe the redwood forest with a live webcam
  5. Explore (virtually!) the redwoods nearest to them

You can learn more, see the weekly prize packages, check out the First and Grand Prizes, and sign up at

I hope that you’ll join me in encouraging children to participate in Reading the Redwoods. And regardless of your age, please join me in looking up at the night sky, inhaling the fresh air of a forest after a rain, and observing the birds flying from tree to tree. Our sense of wonder is as critical today as it was when Rachel Carson took her nephew Roger down to the Maine seashore.

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. … If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.” Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder, 1956

Avatar for T. A. Barron

About the author

T.A. Barron is the winner of the de Grummond Medallion for “lifetime contribution to the field of children’s and young adult literature.” His highly acclaimed, internationally bestselling books include The Lost Years of Merlin (now being developed into a film by Disney), The Great Tree of Avalon (a New York Times bestseller), The Ancient One, and The Hero’s Trail, which profiles heroic young people from diverse backgrounds and inspires young people to think of how they can make a positive difference in the world.

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