“What did you learn from the story?” I ask the young, adorable faces sitting cross-legged in front of me after we read my children’s book “Too Many Dogs.” Most of the hands shoot up in the air, eyes wide and bright. Pick me, pick me. Eager to answer…
“We have to take care of dogs.” The typical first answer…
“Right! What do our dogs need from us? What does it mean to take care of our dogs?” I ask, looking for more details.
“We have to give them food.” A young voice proclaims confidently.
In a sea of hands, I call on each of them, hearing answers like “water, playtime, take them to the vet, toys, teach them tricks, bring them outside, take them for walks…”
Inevitably, each classroom visit, when I ask what else our dogs need from us, there is a student who will say love.
Each time I hear this, my heart fills with hope, I smile and I say “That’s my favorite answer. Yes, LOVE. Our dogs need love from us.”
There’s always one child in the crowd who will come up with that answer and it gives me so much hope.
But the truth is, there’s an even better answer than love that has been said in my visits only two times. Both by first graders. As we discuss responsible pet care, what our pets rely on us to do for them, and what they need from us…on two separate occasions, a child raised their hand and said “Respect.”
To think, a young 7 – 8 year old child with such limited time and experience as a human in our crazy messed up world would have the wherewithal to know that our pets deserve our respect…Its just amazing. Its okay for me to say we should respect animals, but when it comes from a child in front of their peers, and a discussion about what it means to respect animals ensues, it gives me incredible hope for the future of animal advocacy.
When I visit a first or second grade class to read my books and talk about animal kindness and humane education, the kids never fail to surprise me. Young minds are so open to kindness, and so willing to show their emotions with such enthusiasm. I believe its important to show them, as adults, that caring about animals, showing love and respect for nature and the environment is good, decent, acceptable and honorable behavior. We have to be their example.
It has been proven that kids who hurt animals or bully other students have a 25% chance of being convicted of a violent crime as an adult. Teaching RESPECT for animals to kids as young as 3 will create a more peaceful world for us all.
You can learn more about my humane education program and my books for kids promoting animal kindness at http://www.thelittlebluedog.com