I am often asked for children’s book recommendations with strong messages about veganism and compassion towards animals. As a dad of vegan children, I quickly realized that many children’s books reinforce the wrong messages. Animals are often viewed in books as food, products or seen for our entertainment purposes (books about zoo animals are everywhere). We have raised our kids to know that animals are none of these things; they are individuals who exist for their own reasons and their value is more than what we place on their lives as burgers or leather shoes. So I am always pleased when I stumble on books with great messages about treating animals with compassion that reinforce the messages we try to convey to our kids. It must be working…my 2 year old recently saw a picture of an elephant in a zoo and asked, “Why is that elephant in jail?” My 5 yr old always buys the Zoo in the kids’ version of Monopoly so he can set the animals free. I’m proud that we are raising our kids to follow their natural instincts to protect animals from harm rather than use them as commodities. In our house, we read a LOT of books, so it’s nice when we find ones with a message of compassion hidden inside them.
I think there is value in reading the other books as well. If you get to a part where an animal is harmed or being caged or eaten for dinner, it’s an opportunity to talk to your kids about it. Ask, “How do you think they feel in that cage?” or “We don’t drink cow milk, we choose the kind that doesn’t harm animals.” Every opportunity you have to point out the otherwise invisible speciesism found all around us, it protects them against the bombardment of ads, billboards, peer pressures, etc. that they will face in their lives. Children display a natural compassion towards animals. We should be reinforcing that natural instinct rather than teaching them to suppress it.
There are lots of books out there with great messages, and a growing number of books specifically being written about veganism. This is certainly not an exhaustive list or maybe not even the best, but they are some favorites from a vegan dad who has been reading children’s books for nearly a decade.