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Animals have always been present in the media and literature. Who wouldn’t love watching or reading about adorable balls of energy? But the prevalence of using them as characters also come with the increase of harmful animal stereotypes.

Dogs are obedient and kind. Cats, on the other hand, are indifferent, unbothered, and commonly behave in regality. When readers flip through children’s books with animals as protagonists, they likely show traits that have been repeatedly used across different materials.

This may have been a principal element in literature that whenever children come across animals, they’re already associated with unique personalities and behaviors. Think of how foxes are deemed sly, or snakes are almost always evil or malicious.

Adults may already identify where wrongful portrayals are, but children consume these materials without any qualms about how animals indeed are. These animal stereotypes may have stuck for whatever reason. It could be how adorable authors have written mischievousness to be, twisting unkindness and making it quirky and lovable. But this doesn’t mean there’s nothing wrong with giving these animals incorrect personalities.

Anthropomorphism in Literature

Animals are undoubtedly children’s books’ most common and extremely loved characters. After all, children may be more affectionate and welcoming to animals than strangers.

However, this fondness children have for animals can pose difficulties for authors. There’s not much to work with in writing animals if they’re portrayed as they are in reality.

To avoid these limitations, authors have instead given these animals human-like personalities to increase the range they could write in. And the more they write about these animals, the more unavoidable it is to write them in similar means with similar personalities. Hence, one way or another, stereotyping is bound to happen.

Animal Stereotypes in These Materials

These animal stereotypes may often begin with a grain of truth. Authors must bank on some facts to create a more realistic character. But just as it’s been with humans and stereotypes, differences can get lost when generalizing traits until stereotypes have no traces of truth.

An example of modern anthropomorphism in literature can be found in Ladybug children’s book by Caroleann Rice. But unlike other stories utilizing harmful biases against certain animals, this story creates characters that stray from the norm.

The protagonist, a ladybug, is written as a character kind enough they’re almost timid and easily frightened, and a frog, who’s often typecasted as one filled with wisdom, has now become a bully. Changing their traits from typical stereotypes is a way to change and reform how readers would have thought of these animals.

Aside from these characters, what are other possibly harmful animal stereotypes?

Swat Away Spiders. They Bite!

When one sees a spider, their mind automatically connects to Spiderman and how one bite changed him into one of the coolest superheroes. Unfortunately, even children understand that superheroes don’t exist. But they don’t know that spiders aren’t always out to get them.

In children’s literature, spiders may also be commonly written as cunning characters, tricking and trapping their prey toward their webs. This antagonizes them from children’s perspectives, leading to the automatic squishing of spiders when they’re seen. But the truth is, spiders aren’t the bloodsuckers or evil characters they’re typecasted as. They don’t bite unless they’re meant to protect themselves.

If they’re written in a friendlier manner, maybe they won’t be feared. Instead of screaming and squishing them, children would think twice and, perhaps, choose to leave them be.

Dolphins Are the Happiest

In every Disney show set in the vast ocean, there will almost always be a friendly and chirpy dolphin the protagonist meets. Dolphins are stereotyped as happy, friendly, and intelligent mammals, which isn’t far from the truth. They’re proven to be clever and are, to a certain extent, friendly. But children shouldn’t be mistaken and casually approach dolphins they’d possibly meet. While they may appear all smiles, dolphins can also be pretty dangerous.

Now, this doesn’t mean authors should start writing them as antagonists in every material. But they must begin writing about dolphins cautiously, ensuring children won’t have the wrong understanding of their character.