More often than not the book you’re reading to your children at bedtime contains some kind of talking animal who’s on a mission to do good… but have you ever stopped to wonder why this is?
Admittedly, a rabbit and beaver detective team trying to crack the case of who has been stealing goats is an entertaining concept even for us adults, but there’s far more behind children’s affinity with animal characters than just the cute factor.
Studies have found that children, more so than adults, have an intrinsic ‘familiarity' with animals, appreciating and empathizing with them simply for being living creatures.
What’s more, children who have their love for animals encouraged by caregivers are more likely to become more empathetic and compassionate adults with ‘prosocial and humane behaviour’.
Another study, by Professor Daniela O'Neill of the University of Waterloo (2014), found that children absorbed just as many animal facts whilst listening to their parents read an animal-based character picture book than a factual vocabulary book.
On releasing the study Professor O'Neill said: "Marketers tell parents and educators that vocabulary books are more educational, so picture books are often dismissed as being just for fun.
‘But our findings show that reading picture books with kids exposes them to information about animals in a way that allows children to readily apply this knowledge more broadly. This is key to learning.’
‘Animal Detectives: The case of the missing goats’ by Najib Abdi not only unlocks a world of interactive adventure for young readers (recommended for ages 5 to 7), but also weaves in a number of educational facts - building on your child’s knowledge of the world.
Based in a South African village, rather than an overplayed generic jungle scene, ‘Animal Detectives’ will introduce your child to a whole new subset of animals and a landscape they’re probably yet to encounter in the real world.
Children’s fascination with human-like animal characters, called anthropomorphic Characters, is also due to their ability to represent children’s fears, wants, and needs more objectively.
For example, a jumper-wearing lion who learns to be brave around other animals, is likely to intrigue and resonate with a child more than a boy or girl overcoming the same fear in a realistic setting.
It’s believed this is because anthropomorphic characters offer children a distance from their ordinary lives, allowing them to more easily identify and absorb developmental lessons on dealing with emotions or certain situations.
So in conclusion, most children develop an ‘intense interest’ in either an activity, topic, or animal, at around the age of five - and for many children that focuses on a ‘favourite animal’.
Children who are supported in their fascination and love for animals at this time were seen to offer more ‘humane treatment’ to animals, and more compassion to all living things.
With the modern world becoming an increasingly hostile place for wildlife, why not spark your child’s love for animal-kind - whilst also promoting their compassionate nature - by educating them on the incredible variety of living creatures they have inherited on earth?
Click here to get your child’s copy of ‘Animal Detectives: The case of the missing goats’ by Najib Abdi on Amazon.