Many authors and illustrators include animals in their books for children, in part because children seem to have a special affinity for animals. Unfortunately, in the real world, we humans do not treat all animals the same; a dichotomy seems to exist between how we treat companion animals, such as cats, and how we treat those animals whom we use for food and other products. For example, humans often treat companion animals very kindly, looking out for their comfort and helping them live a long life. In contrast, humans often cause farmed animals, such as chickens and cows, to live harsh, short lives, e.g, chickens typically live in crowded, unhygienic, unnatural conditions and are slaughtered by age six weeks.
In the first part of this interactive session, the workshop leader presents examples of various portrayals of animals in children’s books, together with evidence about the real world human-nonhuman animal interface. Then, he suggests that children’s books: (1) do not perpetuate unrealistic images of idyllic farms, at the same time that books for young children should not show the horrors of factory farms and slaughterhouse; (2) focus on the positive characteristics of farmed animals, i.e., their intelligence, talents, family ties and altruism.
Participants are invited to share their thoughts and experiences about the portrayal of animals in children’s books. Finally, time will be allotted for brainstorming of ideas on how nonhuman animals might be more realistically portrayed in children’s literature.
- Overview of the presence of companion animals (cats/dogs) and farmed animals (chickens/pigs/cows) in children’s literature
- How the two types of animals’ portrayal in children’s books corresponds to the reality of these animals’ lives
- Suggestions for how to more closely align the animals’ portrayal with their reality
- Discussion and brainstorming
- Future collaboration
About the trainer: Dr George Jacobs
Dr George Jacobs has taught collaborative learning to a wide variety of teachers in Singapore, from teachers of lower primary students to teachers of adults. Furthermore, he has written many articles and books on collaborative learning, reading and related topics. George serves on the boards of the International Association for the Study of Cooperation in Education and the Extensive Reading Foundation. Currently, he teaches at James Cook University, as well as helping the Book Council.
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