Why a bus driver is fighting for this magical book to be in every school

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Susan Devaney
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A Scottish bus driver has successfully campaigned for The Lost Words to be available in every primary school throughout Scotland. 

Playing a game of ‘conkers’ at school during lunchtime or picking dandelions only to blow them and make a wish, is something every Nineties kid will remember fondly.

But as our obsession with technology rises, getting outdoors and being at one with nature is on the decline.

And that’s exactly why one woman has taken the matter into her own hands. By launching a crowdfunding campaign, Jane Beaton, a school bus driver and travel consultant from Strathyre, Stirling in Scotland, has made it her mission to get the newly published book, The Lost Words into every school across Scotland.

The book, a collection of poems written as ‘spells’ by Robert Macfarlane and paintings by Jackie Morris, celebrates the disappearing words of everyday nature like dandelion, conker and acorn – after they were removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary in 2007. 

By tapping into the persuasive powers of social media, Beaton reached out to Twitter users to get behind her campaign and donate money to help fund the £25,000 needed to get the book into every one of Scotland’s 2,681 primary schools this year. 

And Beaton has been astounded by the response she’s received. 

“The positivity that has been generated and the enthusiasm for such a simple idea is really heart-warming. I have had messages and donations from around the world,” Beaton told

Beaton was taken by the book after seeing it on Twitter and ordering a copy to see it up close for herself.

“I don’t remember exactly how I came across the book, but I think I saw a review or recommendation on Twitter which caught my eye. After I saw the beautiful images I just had to buy it. As soon as I received it I ordered another two copies to give as gifts to my nieces and a friend’s daughter. It is just a magical book,” Beaton explains.

Since being published four months ago the text has already shipped 75,000 copies and won two literary prizes. And Beaton is eager to let every child across Scotland experience the book’s magic.

“If you watch children (and adults) open it, it has an instant impact. I wanted to create that magical space in every classroom (or at least one in each school) where kids could escape into a world of nature,” Beaton said.

Beaton’s campaign has been supported by the John Muir Trust, which has produced free learning resources for teachers across the UK.

But above all, Beaton believes children need to live out their childhood in the outdoors for the sake of their mental health which is why she hopes the book will inspire them to do so.

“I hope that children who read this book will be inspired - and guided by their teachers - to find a connection to their local natural environment,” explains Beaton.

“One that offers an escape from the everyday pressures, worries and expectations when they need it most.”

Most importantly, the book will teach children the importance of protecting the natural environment around them.

“I also hope that in some way this book can help develop a connection to the natural world that will stay with today’s children as they grow up to become the next decision makers,” Beaton explains.

“It really struck me that if kids don’t know what an acorn is, then they are far less likely to care about the oak trees or the ancient woodlands that are being destroyed. If no one tells them about acorns, bluebells and otters - and I’m guessing they are not one of the measures of school performance - then they can’t be expected to care about them.”

Beaton has now raised the £25,000 needed to for the campaign to be a success. 

And people have taken to Twitter show their appreciation and try to extend the campaign across England, Wales and Northern Ireland:

After successfully raising the money needed, only one issue remains for Beaton: getting all 2,681 books into Scottish schools.

“I’m now receiving a new wave of emails and tweets with offers of help to deliver the books which is just fantastic,” says Beaton. 

“I can’t wait to see the book being used in schools across the country.”

Images: Courtesy of publisher