Establishing a baseline: Documenting how Ecological Concepts are Represented in Children’s Books

20150329_reading a story to Dawson and Orion_cr_poster_bw_3_rsBackground

Children’s books are important for education, because they have the potential to simultaneously inform and inspire, and they can do so in exemplary multidisciplinary ways. However, adults and children alike are at risk of being ecologically misinformed inadvertently by children’s books (Ganea et al 2014, Owens 2003).

Yet, teachers working with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are expected to use interdisciplinary materials such as children’s books to teach about ecological concepts (NGSS 2013).


I am conducting visual rhetorical (Foss 1994) and content analyses (Bauer 2000), of 100-200 children’s books in the UW/American Heritage Center’s Toppan Rare Books Collection, to investigate if/how five top ecological concepts identified by Lockwood et al (2016) and NGSS, are represented within these books.



  1. Bauer, M. (2000). Classical content analysis: A review. In M. Bauer & G. Gaskell (Eds.), Qualitative researching with text, image, and sound (pp. 131-151). London: Sage.
  2. Ganea, P. A., C. F.Canfield, K. Simons-Ghafari, T. Chou. (2014). Do cavies talk? The effect of anthropomorphic picture books on children’s knowledge about animals. Frontiers in Psychology 5 (172).
  3. Lockwood et al. (2016). Unpublished data/personal communications.
  4. NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  5. Owens, C.V. (2003) Nonsense, Sense and Science: Misconceptions and Illustrated Trade Books. Journal of Children’s Literature 29 (1).

More information:

This project would not be possible without support from the following:

University of Wyoming American Heritage Center

Maggie Bourque (UW Haub School of Environment & Natural Resources); Anne Marie Lane (UW Toppan Rare Books Collection); Jeffrey Lockwood (UW Dept. of Philosophy/Creative Writing Program); Jerod A. Merkle (UW Dept. of Zoology & Physiology)