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Books for children with people have a greater moral impact than those with animals

Going beyond the tradition of learning ethical lessons with the help of animals in children’s books, new research suggests that human protagonists are needed to change behaviors.
This is how researchers at the Institute for Educational Studies at the University of Toronto came to this conclusion.

Why do children’s books with people teach them more than books with animals?

In the Canadian study, researchers read a story from three to about 100 children between the ages of four and six: a book in which animals learn to be generous, a version of the book in which animal illustrations were replaced with human characters and a book about seeds.

Before reading the story, the children chose 10 stickers to take home and were told that an unknown child would not have any stickers to take home. The children were suggested to give their stickers to the child by putting them in an envelope when no one saw them.

After reading the story, the children were allowed to choose 10 more stickers and were told the story of the child without the stickers again, asking them to donate again. The study found that those children who read the book with human characters became more generous, and those who read the book with animals remained the same. Existing studies using the same method have shown that before the age of six, children rarely share stickers with friends. Even after the age of six, children keep most of the stickers, so the exercise gives children the opportunity to change their behavior.

But reading a book about generosity has an immediate effect on children’s prosocial behavior.

However, the type of characters significantly affects prosocial behavior. After hearing the story of human characters, the children became more generous. Instead, after hearing the same animal story, the children became more selfish. A growing body of research shows that children are more likely to apply what they learn from realistic stories. This is the first time something similar has been discovered in the case of social behaviors. The finding is surprising, given that many children’s stories have animal characters.

Talking animals play an important role in children’s literature. A 2002 study of about 1,000 children’s books found that more than half of the books were animals or habitats of which less than 2% realistically represented animals.

Authors of children’s books should know more about this research. Parents tell their children stories for many reasons. If the goal is to teach them a moral lesson, then one way to make the lesson more accessible to children is to use human characters. The diversity of the characters in the stories and the roles assigned to them should be taken into account.

If the main characters in a moral story are animals, unlike humans, the difference is that a small child does a number of important things. The moral message becomes easier, making it more enjoyable. Some may feel that this makes the story less effective.

But animal stories help little ones get deeper into the story they are reading or reading. A simple moral message might work in the long run, but the stories that have a long-term impact are the ones with which you can empathize on a deeper level.

Books for children with people have a greater moral impact than those with animals

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