Get Children Involved with Nature
How closely do you look at the pictures in the books you read to your children? Or if your children are older and reading their own books, do you ever take a few minutes to skim through and look beyond the cover? Do you notice the type of scenery in the photos? A study, published in Sociological Inquiry in last February aimed to determine the extent to which natural, modified, and built environments have been portrayed in children’s books between 1938 and 2008.
The study looked at 296 award-winning books and the content placed within their photos. In short, the study found a dramatic decline in natural scenery within the sampled books. Built environments (i.e. man-made ones) had increased suggesting an “increasing isolation of people from the natural world”. Interestingly, the presence of wild animals has decreased since 1938 while the use of domestic animals as the subject of the story decreased between 1938 and 1983 when it suddenly began to spike back up.
So what are the implications of these findings? The study suggests that the decline in natural environments being depicted in these books is resulting in a lack of socialization in children. That is, they are not being taught, from book sources, their place within the world and there is a lack of appreciation of the natural world.
Whatever the implications may be, I say this is all the more reason to get your kids (or grandkids) outside, get them playing in the dirt (or the snow, if you’ve been lucky this winter). And most importantly, get out there with them. You know a lot about the out of doors from experience and that knowledge is well worth sharing. Teach them about the importance of trees, about the benefits of a garden – fruits, vegetables, and flowers, about the wonders of a good soil, and of course, about water.
What is the best way to share your knowledge? Get them involved! Plant a tree together, bring a garden from seed to harvest, experiment with different types of soil and different amounts of water. These are not only fun activities and ways to spend time with your children and grandchildren, but lessons that will be remembered throughout their lives.
If you’re interested, you can read the full scientific article.