Only children's books with human characters teach moral lessons, scientists find

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Only picture books which have human characters can teach moral and social lessons to children, a study by scientists in Canada has found.

According to the research, the moral messages of stories resonate less with children when the characters are animals or non-human, even if the creatures are anthropomorphic.

The fascinating study throws into the spotlight thousands of iconic children’s books with non-human leads, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the Gruffalo and The Enormous Crocodile.

Explaining the results, lead researcher Dr Patricia Ganea from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education said: “Many people believe children find stories with human-like animals captivating and relatable, but what we’re finding is that this is not the case.”

“Overall, children were more likely to act on the moral of the story when it featured a human character.”

She said so much of children’s books and movies feature human-like animals, that it is important to be aware that social lessons could be lost.

“Books that children can easily relate to increase their ability to apply the story’s lesson to their daily lives,” she said.

“It is important for educators and parents to choose carefully when the goal is to teach real-world knowledge and social behaviours through storybooks.”


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