How many children believe that polar bears and penguins live together?
When we are providing children with information, even if it is in the form of fiction, we should keep the information accurate so that what they absorb is knowledge they can use. If we come across information that isn't accurate, we can mention it to the child so that they will learn the real information. (like butterflies emerge from a chrysalis not a cocoon and polar bears and penguins live at opposite poles and therefore won't even know each other).
This can also enhance the idea that you can't believe everything you read - and that everyone makes mistakes!
Stories are told to children many times over and this repetition allows for children to retain a lot of the story details. Some of those details could follow them through life as fact. Of course fiction is a chance for fantasy and fun and not all things are linked to reality or fact. But conversation around situations, ideas, emotions and what is real are all beneficial ways to enhance the story experience for kids.
A Yale study suggests that young, inquiring minds prefer stories with an element of truth because they’re eager to learn more about the world around them. Of course fantasy and imagination are also important in a child's development but having stories linked to reality, whether it is relatable characters or situations or real facts about animals, places etc. also need to be included in what is read to them.
When a book offers a story in a rainforest, we need to make sure that the animals represented do indeed live in a rainforest. This may seem like a trivial thing but I think if we are offering these stories, we may as well help children learn and discover too!
Book recommendation: The Three Little Pigs and the Not-So-Bad Wolf
In this re-imagined classic the pigs learn to understand the wolf and offer him empathy.
Often, when animals are depicted in a certain way in stories, like the Big Bad Wolf, children learn to fear the animal in real-life. And although we need to take care around wild animals, wolves are not the deadly animal stories make them out as. We want to generate a love of animals and a respect for wildlife in children. I think an important step is to make sure they are represented fairly in stories.
This is not to say you can't read books about a big bad wolf. But, I think creating a conversation about real wolves compared to the story wolf, or any of the fact vs fiction ideas in stories, is a great learning experience for kids.
“Don’t just teach your children to read…
Teach them to question what they read.
Teach them to question everything.”
― George Carlin
Kids are curious and want to learn about their world - that's why they ask so many questions! Check out the blog post A Monster of an Idea to learn more about applying critical thinking to what kids are learning.