Why are Animal Characters Important in Children’s Books?
Have you ever wondered by animals play such a big role in so many children’s books? Sure, kids love animals, but there are other interesting reasons which you may not have thought about.
The Big Bad Wolf in the Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs was mean, nasty and cruel. Even though we have changed and sanitized these fairytales from their original more gruesome beginnings, there is no denying the wolf is still meant to represent a meaner, and seedier side of human nature.
The Ugly Duckling and the Three Little Pigs represent other values which are commonly found in children. Values such as naivety, inexperience, and an over trusting nature, are often portrayed by animals alluding to the vulnerability of children. The child is meant to identify with these, and learn from a lesson from the character.
All good stories have a conflict which is resolved in the end by the characters developing good values such as, courage, awareness, and strength. Most children’s books were created to help children learn more about themselves. Some focus on values such as sharing, generosity, kindness and friendship.
Animals Don’t Have a Race, Color or Culture
You are no doubt familiar with hundreds of books that contain animals. Do any of them come from a particular race? Did the characters come from a particular religious or ethnic culture? Did the animal have a particular skin color or come from a particular class?
If we want to speak to all children we have to give them a character which they can identify with regardless of where they come from or which culture they identify with. The animals in stories are all kinds of colors some are blue or purple, others perhaps green, and importantly they have no particular race or ethnic background.
By removing any noticeable visual barriers the young reader immediately identifies with the character’s personality and the issues they are facing.
Boys or Girls or Neither?
Many animal characters in children’s books have a vague gender if one at all.
Authors want to create characters which are immediately identifiable with any child who reads the story. The author can start with a clean slate, as it were, on which he or she can mold and shape the exact scenario they want. They don’t have to be concerned about explaining race or cultural differences unless they are fundamental to the sub-text of the story.
Animals are Easy to Identify With
Children need to read stories which touch their hearts and minds. They need to be able to say, “Yes, that’s me,” when they pick up a book. When the stories are about animals the message isn’t cluttered by whether the character is a boy or a girl or what nationality or culture it might come from.
Children need to experience the lives and worlds of others. The use of animals is a sure-fired way to cut through any aspects that might stop the reader immediately identifying with the characters and their stories. They won’t look at a book and see a child from another culture or the opposite gender, and think that’s not me, I can’t identify with what they are going through.
They’ll look at a book with a rabbit on the cover and think that in some way the character could be them. They might think that the book could be about them.
“I can be frightened and worried, but I could also be a hero like this character. Yes, this is me.”
About Author, Susan Day
Susan Day is a passionate author, educator and, a grandmother. She wants to empower all grandparents to build meaningful relationships with their grandchildren. Discover here the Top 10 Things Happy Grandparents Never Regret Doing.
Susan lives in country Australia with four dogs, three bossy cats, two rescue guinea pigs, and an errant kangaroo.