Nature Disappears from Childrens’ Books

Allison Guy
February 29th 2012

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.

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Siri Beerends: I really embrace the idea that viruses can teach us a lesson in modesty. It is necessary that our position as the dominant species on the planet is being challenged. I also agree that it is a mistake to think that we are becoming Gods. But unfortunately, this is actually what is happening now. Corona doesn’t teach us to be modest, it teaches us how we can -as quickly as possible- go back to business as usual: saving our capitalistic economy.

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