Developing empathy and encouraging humane treatment towards all animals from the next generation is behind the SPCA’s launch of a series of storybooks for primary school children.

All six titles

This month the SPCA releases the next stage in its nationwide education programme for New Zealand primary schools – a second collection of six storybooks for children. The series will help educate young readers about the care and wellbeing of animals, aiming for a change in attitude and behaviour from the next generation of animal owners.

The first storybook collection was released in August 2016 and to date around 78,000 books have been used by more than 2,000 primary schools. The first storybook series focused on companion animals and the second on farm animals.

SPCA CEO Andrea Midgen says the books further extend the charity’s New Zealand curriculum-aligned education programme, which first launched in 2016.

“We continue to care for around 46,000 animals that have been lost, abandoned, injured, or abused each year. This is simply not good enough and we need to do better as a country. Teaching animal care and empathy at a young age is vital to turning this around. These storybooks build on the overwhelming success of our education programme which is available to all Primary and Intermediate Schools in the country.”

The focus of each original story is to teach animal care and wellbeing, through engaging, and thought provoking narratives, while supporting the development of children’s reading skills and strategies at school and home.

“We chose to focus on farm animals because, after their pets, New Zealand children are most likely to interact with farm animals. However, the goal of the series is to develop empathy towards all animals from the next generation,” says Andrea.

The storybooks are part of the SPCA’s free in-school education programme which launched in 2016 after three years of development. It was created by teachers for teachers and includes classroom resources, teaching plans linked to the New Zealand Curriculum, a teachers’ and students’ online portal.

Each school will receive 36 new books this month; six sets each which are funded by donations and community grants. Teaching notes are available to teachers through the SPCA Teachers’ Portal. Suggested activities help to extend and consolidate children’s understanding of animal care concepts and increase their empathy for the animal characters within the stories.

“Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, US, say that reading can ‘trick’ our brains into thinking we are part of the story. The empathy we feel for characters can wire our brains to have the same sensitivity in real life. This is crucial in helping shift attitudes and behavior towards animals, helping to reduce cruelty in the future,” says Andrea.

The new books include:

  • Garry the Goat’s Escape
  • Barney and the Sheep with No Name
  • Guzzler Does the Job
  • Toni, the Party Pony
  • Mrs Wigglesworth Gets the Milk
  • Wake Up, Drongo!

Children and their families can access resources to support the books at the SPCA Kids’ Portal: www.kids.spcaeducation.org.nz

Teachers can register for free, curriculum-aligned resources at the SPCA Teachers’ Portal:
www.teachers.spcaeducation.org.nz

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