In a recent essay I wrote about the need for "wild" play by children and the great concern that it is declining globally. Now, I've just read that a survey of 8100 images in 296 award-winning children's books published between 1938 and 2008 shows a decline in the representation of nature and animals.
Some snippets from this report include:
- Early in the study period, built environments were the primary environments in about 35% of images. By the end of the study, they were primary environments about 55% of the time.
- Early in the study, natural environments were the primary environments about 40% of the time; by the end, the figure was roughly 25%.
- Images of wild animals and domestic animals declined dramatically over time, says lead author Al Williams of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln: "The natural environment and wild animals have all but disappeared in these books."
This results of this study are bad news in many ways. They can translate into less concern about the environment and also a lack of connection with nature. Richard Louv, author of the seminal book Last Child in the Woods notes, "Nature experience isn't a panacea, but it does help children and the rest of us on many levels of health and cognition. I believe that as parents learn more about the disconnect, they'll want to seek more of that experience for their children, including the joy and wonder that nature has traditionally contributed…
Read the article