Award-winning author Lauren Child helps children smile with free Woodland Trust trees

Much-loved children’s author Lauren Child has urged schools and community groups across the UK to take advantage of the Woodland Trust’s “brilliant” free trees scheme and bring hope to the fight against climate change.

The creator of iconic characters Charlie and Lola and Clarice Bean, whose latest book Clarice Bean Smile shines a light on children’s anxiety over the environment, was prompted to back the scheme because she wanted to bring “hope” and “joy” and show how “little things can make a difference”.

Speaking during a tree-planting event at a London primary school, the former Children’s Laureate, explained her own climate anxiety and talked of the conversations she has had with children about their worries concerning the environment. Lauren, who grew up in rural Wiltshire, has always featured trees in her work.

And in Clarice Bean Smile, published by Harper Collins Children’s Books, they are central to the story. She encouraged schools and community groups to make the most of the Trust’s ever-popular free trees initiative.

“You have to find joy where you can,” Lauren explained. “Then by searching out joy, I think you begin to rediscover hope. And so, I thought I would look at my climate anxiety through the eyes of a child.

“And the child I chose was Clarice Bean. I’ve written many stories about this character, the first book 25 years ago!

“I wondered what trees might tell us if they could talk. Perhaps they would explain that they are like no other and tell us about the insects, the birds , the nature they support. They joy they give us and the history they have seen.”

Torriano School in Kentish Town is one of thousands of schools and community groups across the UK that has made the most of the scheme.

The school signed up to the Camden Climate Charter in 2020 and set up their own Eco Committee. Since them the children have committed to all sort of activities, including reducing and recycling lost property, growing their own food and planting more trees to lower carbon footprint – as well as continuing to raise awareness of green issues within the school and promote those positive habits in the wider community.

“Having long been fans of both, we loved working with the Woodland Trust and Lauren Child,” said Rose O’Brien, Torriano’s Personal, Social and Health Education lead.

“Despite being in the heart of Camden, our school is a green oasis and we were excited to add the native British trees provided by the Trust. Their advice on caring for them was also invaluable.

“We all enjoyed getting our hands dirty as we planted together and the excitement of doing this with the creator of Clarence Bean was clear on all of the children’s faces. What a day!”

Pupils of all ages as well as scout and guide groups, sports clubs and a host of other community groups have taken delivery of more than 14 million free saplings from the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity since the scheme began – an average of more than one million every year.

Steve Dewhurst, from the Trust’s tree pack team, said:
“It’s an amazing initiative and it’s not just schools like Torriano who can get involved. But they are a shining example of how enjoyable and rewarding it is to spread environmental awareness – and they perfectly showcase how learning about nature and wildlife can become an integral part of the school curriculum.

“Torriano applied for 15 saplings last year and we all had great fun helping plant them. The pupils and teachers were all fully engaged and were literally prepared to get their hands dirty for nature.

“Planting trees, helping them grow and seeing and learning how they benefit wildlife and people – and contribute to a brighter and cleaner environment is a wonderful activity for children which they’ll always remember.

“As an inner-city school there is limited green space, but it shows there is no space too small to get trees in the ground and – as Lauren says and Clarice has learned – every tree planted makes a difference.”

Lauren Child visits a primary school with The Woodland Trust – Credit: PhilFormby

Trees are one of our best defences in the fight against the effects of climate change. They absorb carbon, cool cities, prevent floods, clean air and protect wildlife. Planting more trees isn’t just about giving wildlife a home, it’s about safeguarding our health, homes and future.

The Woodland Trust’s tree packs have been generously funded by lead partners Sainsbury’s, Lloyds Bank, OVO, Bank of Scotland and Sofology. 

The Woodland Trust is giving away hundreds of thousands of trees to schools and communities to make sure everybody in the UK has the chance to plant a tree. To apply, or see terms and conditions, visit: www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/freetrees


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