Guest Post

Connecting Kids to Nature | A Guest Post by Author Renee Macalino Rutledge

Back in May I was asked to review One Hundred Percent Me by Renee Macalino Rutledge. However this book is of a topic that I don’t think me as a European white reader would do well on reviewing. With a perspective of a mixed Latina and Asian main character I did however want to pay some attention to this book. And the best way I know is by offering up a spot for a guest post. That way you can all discover the author and see if you would like to check out their work.

Nature Is the Best Playground

by Renee Macalino Rutledge

Losing yourself in a screen means forgetting your breath, overlooking your surroundings, and often, feeling anxious about what you see or read about in the virtual world. It’s no wonder kids, whose screen time has doubled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, are experiencing rising stress and depression rates. But nature offers a way to get grounded once again—in our bodies and our world.

Kids navigate naturally toward play, and nature is the best playground. My fondest memories of childhood take place in the outdoors. I remember biking on dirt trails, sloshing barefoot in the mud when the tide was low, and skipping rocks over lakes and rivers. A field of dirt across the street from my aunt’s house became a playing field for me and my cousins. A wall of boulders where my brothers fished was more exciting than any jungle gym. Yes, today’s kids grew up with technology, but this doesn’t mean they are no longer compatible with nature. They just need the opportunity to unplug and get outside.

For me, taking a walk is therapy, whether it’s in the woods or around the block. It stops the noise in my mind, clearing my senses to hear birdsong, wind in trees, the buzz of insects, the crunch of footsteps. It opens my eyes to beauty in all its guises, from the flowers in bloom to the smile of a stranger. It also gives me a chance to spend uninterrupted time with my family—when our focus is being together in the present, where nothing is wanting. Without these regular resets, pursuing creativity in a busy world would feel like going against the flow of the waterfall rather than with it. 

Once removed from their digital toys, kids don’t need reminders to be present, and nature offers the tools for their dynamic imaginations. A day at the beach with my daughters could include everything from making fairy houses to building an enchanted fort to playing tag with the sea. The power of make believe ensues, whether we pretend to be the fairies or invent the stories of the fairies who live in the homes we’ve fashioned out of shell and driftwood. 

When walking among giants, including 1,000-year-old redwoods and even older sequoias, my daughters and I speak of the centuries come and gone, all while the trees have remained standing. The ancient trees have a lot to teach curious minds, about fortitude and observation, history, community, and so much more. They open up conversations and storylines—opportunities for learning and inspiration. In the wilderness of foliage, we notice our breath, taking in the fresh air. We climb sloping hills and balance across fallen logs, giving our bodies the benefit of exercise. We take heed of our surroundings—the colors, shapes, and textures—and the “likes” and “followers” of the world are quickly forgotten. 

Instead, the boundless world we live in opens, and we do not take the presence of a fox or butterfly for granted. Every dew drop shimmers, and the paths open before us in many directions, inviting us to explore. 

About the Author

Renee Macalino Rutledge was born in Manila, Philippines, and raised in California from the age of four. Her debut novel, The Hour of Daydreams, won an Institute for Immigration Research New American Voices Finalist award, Foreword INDIES Gold, and Powell’s Top Five Staff Pick. In addition to her latest book One Hundred Percent Me, she is also the author of the children’s book Buckley the Highland Cow & Ralphy the Goat, a story about overcoming hardship with the help of our friends, who are often very different from ourselves. Renee lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she reads books for a living, loves the outdoors, and is always on the lookout for new adventures with her husband and their two daughters. Find her at reneerutledge.com or connect with her on Instagram (@renee_rutledge).

Website | Instagram | Goodreads

About the Book

A powerful and heartwarming story for multicultural and mixed  families, One Hundred Percent Me [byRenee Macalino Rutledge takes  young readers (ages 4 to 8) along a young girl’s exploration of her  mixed race identity. 

Many Americans with immigrant ancestors are constantly asked,  “Where are you from?” The assumption is they are not from the  city they were born and raised in. One Hundred Percent Me turns the question on its head, claiming belonging for so many  children of color in a positive, celebratory way. 

As the little girl in the story moves through daily life in the big city,  she hears some people say she looks more like her Puerto Rican  dad, while others claim she takes after her Filipina mom. Should  she favor one identity over the other? No! In fact, honoring every facet of her identity equally becomes the main character’s favorite  affirmation. 

This beautifully illustrated story celebrates our differences, as she  learns how to claim her belonging and honor the heritage that  makes her unique and wholly herself. 

“A book from the perspective of a mixed Latinx and Asian child  is rare,” says author Renee Macalino Rutledge, whose own two  daughters inspired the story. “Multiracial kids make up a huge and  growing demographic in the US, and as all kids, they deserve to  see themselves in books.” 

Rutledge, who is Filipina and whose husband is Puerto Rican,  used the questions she heard growing up, as well as those she  was asked as her kids grew up, to write this personal story. 

“I raised two daughters and read to each of them from the womb,”  she said. “I wrote the book I always wished I could read to them  but never could because it simply didn’t exist. As a parent of multi ethnic children, I’ve constantly been told who my kids look like,  which race, and which parent. Whether this is from affection or  adoration, in my mind, I’ve thought, ‘my kids look like themselves.’  And that’s what they are, themselves, and it’s what makes me  most proud.” 

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