Teaching children to have compassion and empathy for their furry, feathered, and finned friends is vital to preventing cruelty to animals. In an effort to help children of all ages understand that kindness—toward all species, races, and genders—matters, PETA has launched a literary program, Barks & Books. Our hope is to convey the importance of treating animals with kindness to kids through the power of the written word (and some pretty fantastic illustrations, too)!
PETA launched Barks & Books in early 2017. When children bring their animal companions to our Norfolk, Virginia, clinic, we give them a free book to take home. Each book contains a message of kindness to animals to encourage young people to practice compassion toward all sentient beings in their lives, including their animal companions.
We must show children—through stories and our own actions—that practicing empathy and compassion toward animals is of the utmost importance. Stories play an important role in shaping children’s growth and development, and by providing these books, we hope to encourage kids to be kind.
Teaching children to care for and respect animals will make the world not only a kinder place but also a safer one. Research in psychology and criminology shows that people who commit acts of cruelty to animals don’t stop there—many of them move on to hurting their fellow humans.
According to Robert K. Ressler, who developed profiles of serial killers for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, murderers “very often start out by killing and torturing animals as kids.” Fostering positive, caring relationships between children and animals will improve the well-being of animals and other humans.
We believe that every child has the ability to practice kindness by lending a helping hand to animals. There are numerous ways children—and adults—can be heroes to animals in their communities.
You can ask your neighbor to let a chained dog inside, take a homeless cat to an animal shelter, or report animal abuse to local authorities. You can adopt from an animal shelter instead of buying from a breeder or pet store. You can opt not to chain or crate a dog, have your animal companions spayed or neutered, and ensure that garbage doesn’t become deadly for animals by replacing lids on glass jars, closing trash cans securely, and cutting up plastic six-pack rings.
These actions require little to no additional effort but can make a huge difference to animals’ safety and well-being. Our hope is that if we provide children with touching stories of these actions, they’ll want to help out, too.
Our spay/neuter clinic currently has a number of fantastic books for visiting children to choose from. A few titles include My Name is Jessie by Stacy Ames, How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham, Gorilla by Anthony Browne, Vegan Is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action by Ruby Roth, Wanda and Winky by Linda K. McLean, Hobbes Goes Home by Bruce Zeman Jr. and Tami Crupi Zeman, Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary by Maya Gottfried, Why Are You a Vegan? and Other Wacky Verse for Kids and Luke Walker: Animal Stick Up For-er, both by Violet’s Vegan Comics, JJ The American Street Dog and How He Came to Live in Our House by Diane Rose-Solomon, Love Me Gently by Lisa Wiehebrink, What to Expect When Adopting a Dog: A Guide to Successful Dog Adoption for Every Family by Diane Rose-Solomon, The Secret Life of Mitch Spinach by Hillary Feerick, Jeff Hillenbrand, Joel Fuhrman, and M.D., Clover’s Great Escape and The Boy Who Loved Broccoli by Sarah Creighton, Sprig the Rescue Pig and Gwen the Rescue Hen by Leslie Crawford, I’m a Supervegan: A Confidence-Building Children’s Book for Our Littlest Vegans by Katie Clark, Animal Rescue by Patrick George, What Is a Vegan? by Andrew Miele, The Boy Who Loved All Living Things: The Imaginary Childhood Journal of Albert Schweitzer by Sheila Hamanaka, and The Kind Garden and The Three Little Pigs Save the Earth by Scott Reeve.
It’s important to teach the next generations to respect those who are different from them and treat them with kindness. This program wouldn’t be possible without the authors and publishers who’ve donated to Barks & Books. We’d like to extend our sincerest gratitude to our participating publishers, including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and The Gryphon Press, for their generous donations. We hope to keep adding new, relevant titles to our selection of books in order to continue to provide children with compelling stories of compassion.
If you’re interested in donating or contributing to PETA’s Barks & Books program, please click the button below. We appreciate your interest in helping us teach children about the importance of kindness to all sentient beings.