Is nature being edged out of children’s books?

February 23rd, 2012 - 4:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 23 (IANS) Our growing isolation from nature is edging out forests and wild animals from award-winning children’s picture books.

A team led by University of Nebraska-Lincoln sociology professor emeritus J. Allen Williams Jr. reviewed the winners and honour books receiving the prestigious Caldecott Medal from the award’s inception in 1938 through 2008.

Their results, Williams said, visibly exhibited a steady decline in illustrations of natural environments and animals, as well as humans’ interactions with both, even as images of built environments became much more common.

Researchers examined nearly 8,100 images contained in nearly 300 books. They looked at whether images depicted a jungle or a forest or a house, a school or an office or something in-between, such as a mowed lawn, the journal Sociological Inquiry reports.

“I am concerned that this lack of contact may result in caring less about the natural world, less empathy for what is happening to other species and less understanding of many significant environmental problems,” Williams said, according to a Nebraska statement.

Caldecott awardees are the children’s books judged by the American Library Association to have the best illustrations in a given year.

Latter decades showed an obvious shift away from nature — while built and natural environments were almost equally likely to be shown from the late 1930s until the 1960s.

Cities, towns and the indoors started to increase in books in the mid-1970s while fewer and fewer books pictured the natural environment.

During the seven decades included in the study, more people have lived in and around built environments, so researchers said they were not surprised such images would be prominent.

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