Where the Wild Things Aren’t

by Kirk Werner on February 28, 2012

An article in USAToday.com recently came through my in-box, and I’m glad it did. The article, titled “Study: New children’s books lack reference to nature, animals” talks about the trend in children’s books, whereby there are fewer and fewer themes dealing with the natural outdoor world.

This is really of little surprise to me, as it’s merely a microcosm of the world in which we live today—a world in which kids are spending more time engaged with technology, and less time outside playing the dirt.  I’ve written about this on several occasions, touting the merits of fly fishing as a great way to get kids interested in outdoor recreation, gaining an appreciation for the natural wonders, and having fun away from computers, cell phones and video games.

The USA Today article says this of the study:

Researchers at several universities reviewed about 8,100 images in 296 children’s books. The books were all Caldecott Medal winners and honorees from 1938 to 2008.

They didn’t review the Olive books because Olive did not win a Caldecott award. The Caldecott is a very distinguished award given annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. But that’s beside the point.

Co-author Chris Podeschi of Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania says: “This is just one sample of children’s books, but it suggests there may be a move away from the natural world as the population is increasingly isolated from these settings. This could translate into less concern about the environment.”

I would agree. One of the great values in teaching kids about the outdoors is teaching them the importance of taking care of the environment. Through fly fishing, Olive teaches kids to be stewards of the fish, and the world in which the fish live. If you teach a child a lesson early on, they will carry that through life with them, growing into the next generation of conservationists. In a world where our natural resources hang in a delicate balance, this is more important than ever.

Not surprisingly the article cites Dr. Richard Louv, co-founder of the Children & Nature Network and a well-known author on the subject of connecting kids with nature. Aside from his passion for reconnecting kids with nature, Dr. Louv is also a fly fisherman ;)  The disconnect between today’s children and the natural world is a very real concern.

Psychologist Susan Linn, author of The Case for Make Believe, says the research supports growing concerns about children’s lack of connection with nature.

“Time in green space is essential to children’s mental and physical health,” Linn says. “And the health of the planet depends on a generation of children who love and respect the natural world enough to protect it from abuse and degradation.”

To read the full article, click HERE.

For two reasons I wish the folks conducting the study had chosen Olive as a subject for their research: First, that would mean that Olive had earned a Caldecott Award; and second, they would have seen that some children’s books still carry the torch for the great outdoors.

 

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