Inspiring readers: Animals and the natural world

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In the third in our series on using books with Lyfta, our Professional Development Lead, Anna Szpakowska, explores how books about animals and the natural world can be enriched by Lyfta’s immersive digital stories.
Nay Elaine in storyworld Mother of the Forest.
Nay Elaine in storyworld Mother of the Forest.
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"Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty."

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Over recent years, natural disasters, such as wildfires and flooding, have been regular features of the news cycle, and as a result, we've seen a vital media focus on the environment and climate change.
In this blog, I've selected some books, suitable for ages 4-18, focused on animals and the natural world. I've also identified some of Lyfta's storyworlds which, when used alongside these books, can help to bring their ideas to life.

Key stage one

Fish in storyworld series Fish Tales.
Fish in storyworld series Fish Tales.
Marcus Pfister's The Rainbow Fish not only deals with issues of friendship and sharing but it also introduces children to sea life such as fish, star-fish and octopi. It's also beautifully illustrated and children aged four to six will love the glittery rainbow fish scales. Children can continue to see beautiful aquatic creatures in Lyfta's 360° degree film of the aquarium in San Francisco in our Fish Tales storyworld.

Key stage two

Cossack on his horse in storyworld The Proud Cossack.
Cossack on his horse in storyworld The Proud Cossack.
Michael Morpurgo's much loved War Horse is suitable for children aged eight and above. The story depicts the bond between Albert, a young French farm boy, with his foal, Joey. This bond is severed when Joey is sold by Albert's father to the British cavalry in 1914 and Joey leaves Albert to further the war effort. But Albert can't forget Joey easily and instead embarks on a journey to be reunited with his steed and friend. This book can be enriched further by an exploration of The Proud Cossack storyworld, where students can learn more about the special bonds formed by the Cossacks with their horses as well as ways in which humans have been supported by horses throughout history.

Key stage three

Erkan from Ankara in storyworld Dogs' Best Friend.
Erkan from Ankara in storyworld Dogs' Best Friend.
Richard Lambert's wonderful young adult read, Wolf Road, won both The Times, The Financial Times and The Guardian's Best Books of 2020. This book would be suitable for older key stage three readers. It depicts the experiences of Lucas who tragically loses both of his parents to a road traffic accident. As Lucas tries to assimilate to a new life with his grandmother, he becomes transfixed by a mysterious, beautiful and seemingly dangerous fox. This compelling story is at points quite surreal but nevertheless, the beautiful prose depicts the amazing bonds humans can form with canines of all kinds. This book would be a perfect partner to our storyworld, Dogs' Best Friend, where students can learn more about the ways in which dogs can support humans both physically and emotionally too.

Key stage four and five

Forest in storyworld Mother of the Forest.
Forest in storyworld Mother of the Forest.
Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake is the first in the series of dystopian novels set in a post-apocalyptic world. The novel focuses on the disastrous consequences of immoral experimentation on the natural world and human beings too. It flashes between the present day and flashbacks of the pre-apocalyptic world. This is seen through the eyes of a character called Snowman, who is trying to survive in this post-apocalyptic landscape. We also see Snowman in flashbacks, living life in a pre-apocalyptic society. This society functions in such a way that it dismisses questions of ethics and morality in favour of pushing the boundaries of advanced biological science. This book could be used alongside our Mother of the Forest storyworld, which could be used as an optimistic counterpoint to Atwood's bleak dystopian future. In contrast, this storyworld demonstrates the ways in which people can protect and care for the environment, using scientific methods to track and protect wildlife.Please note, that while Mother of the Forest is suitable for students of all ages, Oryx and Crake, is a mature read for older students in key stage four or students at key stage five as it deals with a lot of sensitive content.
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