A Portrait of Biodiversity in Children’s Trade Books

in Society & Animals
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Indirect experiences are important in the public perception of nature and may influence attitudes towards conservation. Biodiversity and the environment are frequently presented in children’s books and promote children’s attitudes and emotions about biodiversity. We examined how biodiversity was portrayed in 164 books directed at six- to eight-year-old children. Living beings and habitats were found in 98% and 80% of the books, respectively, and included 441 different organisms in a total of 21,786 occurrences. The living beings in the books weren’t representative of the global biodiversity and were dominated by few iconic nonhuman organisms, mostly mammals, especially companion animals or other domesticated animals. The representations were strongly biased towards anthropomorphization of nonhuman animals who inhabited limited common habitats. This may contribute to the idea that all biodiversity lives in forests and humanized habitats, and is limited to nonhuman animals under human mastery or to few inaccessible megafauna.

A Portrait of Biodiversity in Children’s Trade Books

in Society & Animals



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  • View in gallery
    Distribution of occurrences per biodiversity group ( fantastic animals or biological traces were excluded) (a) in the text (b) in images, and (c) in total; Presences of biodiversity groups in (d) the main plot and (e) the scenario, ( f ) as main characters and (g) as characters, and (h) in anthropomorphization categories. “Other groups” include annelids, mollusks, algae and lichens. Plant cluster include undefined plants, trees, flowers, vegetables, and fruits.
  • View in gallery
    Distribution of taxa per (a) major group of organism on earth and (b) in the book sample analyzed.

    source: iucn 2010 redlist; http://www.iucnredlist.org/documents/summarystatistics/2010_1RL_Stats_Table_1.pdf.

  • View in gallery
    Relative importance of anthropomorphization categories per (A) biodiversity group and the (B) relative proportion of the origin of the biodiversity elements in the total book sample and in the sub-samples corresponding to Portuguese and authors of other nationalities. The first column corresponds to the list of the origin of biodiversity elements mentioned in the books.
  • View in gallery
    Principal coordinates analysis (pco) of a Bray-Curtis similarity resemblance matrix between habitats in the books written by Portuguese authors (A), by authors of other nationalities (B), and in the total book sample (C). The circle sizes reflect the frequency of each habitat. Forest (Tr)—Tropical forest; Forest (M/T)—Mediterranean and temperate forests.


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