Study Shows Decline in Nature in Picture Books

A recent study by Dr. J. Allen Williams, Jr., a sociologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln took a look at Caldecott Award books between 1938 and 2008.  They specifically looked at images in the books and whether they depicted nature, indoor settings, or a combination of human and natural settings like a playground.  They looked at over 8000 images in 296 books.

Due to the increased interest in the environment, one of the possibilities was that more nature would be in the award winning books in more recent times.  Another possibility, and the one that turned out to be true, was that because of our isolation from the natural world in the modern day, there would be fewer images of nature.

The study showed significant declines in illustrations of nature in the picture books.  Now, those of us who know children’s books can come up with many examples of incredible books that focus on the environment, and before I read more about the study that was exactly what I was starting to do.  This study shows though that the books that are being selected as the best picture books of the year are not those about nature.  An interesting trend that.

What is your take on this?  Do you agree with the trend?  Wonder at whether it reflects the full picture book world? 

One thought on “Study Shows Decline in Nature in Picture Books

  1. Looking at only Caldecott books seems like a rather limited sample size and not very random. Does this truly reflect the trend in all picture books, or does it instead reflect the kinds of themes that are attractive to the librarians who make the Caldecott selections? The findings may be true, but I’d have preferred to see a more random sample group. Thanks for sharing this report.


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