Increasingly, Children’s Books Are Where the Wild Things Aren’t

Increasingly, Children’s Books Are Where the Wild Things Aren’t

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A new study has found that over the last several decades, nature has increasingly taken a back seat in award-winning children’s picture books — and suggests this sobering trend is consistent with a growing isolation from the natural world. A group of researchers reviewed the winners and honor books receiving the prestigious Caldecott Medal from the award’s inception in 1938 through 2008. In total, they examined nearly 8,100 images contained in nearly 300 books. Caldecott awardees are the children’s books judged by the American Library Association to have the best illustrations in a given year.

Researchers looked at whether images depicted a natural environment, such as a jungle or a forest; a built environment, such as a house, a school or an office; or something in-between, such as a mowed lawn. They also noted whether any animals were in the pictures — and if so, if those creatures were wild, domesticated or took on human qualities. Their results visibly exhibited a steady decline in illustrations of natural environments and animals, as well as humans’ interactions with both. Meanwhile, images of built environments became much more common.

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