In an analysis of Caldecott Medal winning children's books, sociologist Allen Williams recently discovered that depictions of nature have dramatically declined from 1938 to 2008. Looking at 8,000 images in 296 books, Williams and his team found that, early on, illustrations tended to be evenly split between natural and built environments. The balance tipped towards the human realm in the 1970s, and now, the depiction of completely natural environments has all but disappeared from Caldecott books. Characters' interactions with wild animals declined steadily, as did the use of any animal, wild or domestic, as a protagonist.
Williams only examined Caldecott winners, so the trends he uncovered may only reflect the tastes of the librarians that award the medal, rather than accurately reflecting the publishing market. However, along with the disappearance of "nature" words from children's dictionaries, this finding indicates that nature deficit disorder may be a top-down imposition. Why socialize kids to enjoy the outdoors when the iPad is already the world's most compact playground?
Image via Choo Cha Handmade.