Depictions of Natural World Declining in Children’s Books, Study Says

A new study finds a significant decline in the depiction of the natural world and animals in U.S. children’s books in recent decades, a trend researchers say may reflect society’s increasing isolation from nature. In an analysis of 296 Caldecott Medal-winning books from 1938 to 2008, a team of researchers led by University of Nebraska-Lincoln sociologist J. Allen Williams Jr. found that images of natural environments and interactions with wild animals have declined steadily. Meanwhile, depictions of built environments, such as houses and buildings, have become increasingly prevalent since the late 1960s, according to the study published in the journal Sociological Inquiry. “These findings suggest that today’s generation of children are not being socialized, at least through this source, toward an understanding and appreciation of the natural world and the place of humans within it,” the authors wrote.