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Books set in nature like "Where The Wild Things Are" are becoming far less common, according to new research.

Does it matter? Natural world disappearing from kids books

From wild animals to jungles and forests, a new study says kids books about nature are becoming a threatened species.

Researchers from several universities reviewed nearly 300 award winning children's titles written between 1938 to 2008. Study co-author, Prof. Chris Podeschi of Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, told 97.3 KIRO FM they found a troubling trend when comparing books written in the past to the near present.

"Earlier, the books were really sort of more nature centered, the settings chosen, the animals present were just more prominent," Podeschi said.

Books like "Where the Wild Things Are, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and "Little Red Riding Hood" have given way more and more to urban settings with fewer animals.

"We're just worried that along with grownups, now kids are increasingly isolated from the natural world in their actual experience."

And he said while there are plenty of great books still being written about the natural world, they worry people will ultimately stop caring about nature and animals as they turn increasingly to a technology centered world.

"We urbanize substantially, park visitation is down as a society, we turn to electronic gadgets that are more and more prominent in our lives," he said.

Not exposing kids to nature through books sparked plenty of conversation and disagreement among the Seattle's Morning News crew. Co-host Linda Thomas argues kids get a bum rap, and any reading is good reading.

"I just thought as long kids were reading or parents were reading to kids, you're ahead of the game there. I really think as long as kids are reading, it doesn't matter what they're reading," Thomas said.

Co-host Tom Tangney argues kids get plenty of exposure to nature from other places. He says his nephew's favorite show is "Dinosaur Train," a weekly exploration of natural environments and animals.

"I think there's a real push in all sorts of different platforms. Nature is more popular than ever," Tangney says.

"That's not nature, that's the nature channel...a screen is not the real world," replies co-host Bill Radke.


Josh Kerns, MyNorthwest.com
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.
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