In celebration of World Green Roof Day (6 June), The Green Roof Organisation (GRO) has partnered with children’s author and nature enthusiast Jenny Bailey to release ‘Journey to the Green Roof’, an interactive children’s book, to inspire nature engagement from an early age.
With continued urban expansion, green roofs provide a great many environmental and ecological benefits, offering a sustainable solution to the decline of biodiversity in an otherwise commonly surplus space.
Bailey, who co-founded storybook series Tales from Mother Earth, has penned ‘Journey to the Green Roof’ which follows the story of Freya the Bee and Sarah the Ladybird, two pivotal species in the world’s ecosystem, seeking refuge after being driven from their habitat.
“The objective of the story is to connect children with nature, but also to give them a good understanding of what a green roof is and the benefits it can give to nature.
“If we can engage children with a story that captures their hearts, allowing them to see that the characters in the story are doing better for finding a green roof, whilst educating them on the benefits of these amazing structures, then we’ve done something good in that connection.”
As the climate crisis continues, the focus remains on sustainable nature-based solutions. Green roofs allow for urban space to be returned to nature, supporting the natural colonisation of locally arising plants, birds and small animals, including those identified as red listed, or otherwise thought extinct in the UK.
“We need to find a balance, don’t we? Between our buildings, our cities, and our land. Our cities are very hot places because they’re concrete jungles.
“Over the last five years, there seems to be a big campaign to green our cities, which is really good because wildlife needs to be in our cities.”
The reintroduction of wildlife and vegetation in urban areas also offers a unique opportunity to children who potentially have limited access to rural environments.
The Department of Education is now saying that all new school builds need to have a green roof, facilitating another way for children to benefit from nature, while highlighting the importance of early childhood engagement.
“They might see bees going out to the flowers and they’ll realise that it’s a space that’s alive, rather than a space that’s dead with nothing there. They’ll realise that it’s a used space and a shared space.”
Experiencing nature is thought to provide physical and mental health benefits; this holds a potential ecosystem service that could start a positive feedback loop between health, wellbeing, and connection to nature that benefits biodiversity conservation through increased empathy and respect.
“I noticed that my children started to feel better when they were taking positive actions as well. I thought, if we can capture this into a book that can give children that power to feel better about their futures, by connecting with nature, and letting them know what they need to do to help nature, then we’ve done something special.”
Bailey’s Journey to the Green Roof is an inclusive story book for children aged three to 10, with every book under the Tales from Mother Earth banner released with an accompanying audio book via QR code, narrated by ‘Mother Earth’, allowing children of all ages and capabilities to experience the wonders of nature.
“From the ages of a three-year-old to a 10-year-old, there’s something in the book that will keep them alert and learning in the most positive way.”
Bailey founded Tales from Mother Earth in response to the 2019 wildfires blazing across much of Europe and America, as a way to calm both her own anxieties and her two young boys.
“I couldn’t be passive to the information anymore that was coming through the media. It seemed like a real turning point when you saw those fires reaching the skies and people’s homes were being destroyed.
“I’m not necessarily thinking about my generation, but my children’s generation and their mental health, they were getting quite concerned about their futures.
“I want to be able to look them in the eyes and say I’m trying to do all I can do.”
After becoming a member of GRO, the clear call to action for Bailey was to pen a story emphasising the exciting potential of green roofs in a child friendly way to prompt early engagement and acknowledgment.
GRO vice-chair, Chris Bridgman of Bridgman & Bridgman says: “Having written a series of books for children already with music and beautiful illustrations, we were inspired by Jenny’s enthusiasm for green roofs and her ability to tell the story and share the benefits with younger generations in a clear and enjoyable way.”
Already in the UK green roofs have helped increase the declining numbers of the Black Redstart bird, with several species of wildlife recorded to be settling atop green roofs originally thought to be too elevated.
Green roofs hold great potential to ignite significant change in the climate race, offering sustainable and environmental solutions, allowing children to learn from an early age the importance of nature conservation in a bid to extend the longevity of the planet they will inherit.
Journey to the Green Roof by Jenny Bailey is out now, available for purchase here.