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WHEN VIEWING ON A MOBILE DEVICE -- DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM Why Are Children So Interested In Animals, Anyway?  at interaction. A positive response from an animal encourages connection by building children’s confidence in processing and responding to the com- munication of another. It’s All about Me Many children respond to an animal’s nonverbal or verbal communication with a natural assumption that the animal is speaking or communicating directly with him. This is part of why children re- spond with such excitement when an animal makes noise. If Noah, a preschooler, greets the classroom bird with a cheerful “Hello!” and the bird squawks in response, it can be very exciting indeed! Or when a dog barks excitedly as a child tosses a ball in the backyard, it can feel to the child as though “the dog is playing with me!” In fact, many animal behaviorists and pet owners alike would argue that indeed the dog is responding to the child with pure excitement and joy, much as a human friend would do. Many children may speak to household or class- room pets in a quiet whisper, telling it their secrets or troubles of the day. Even adults know that animals are great listeners. They accept without question or judgment the words that we say and the feelings that we share. We can talk to our pets and tell them things we can’t tell anyone else. Children know this, too. Children may eagerly search out a household pet at the end of the day, telling the cat how things have gone at a playdate, or what they did at school. Many a curious parent has listened in to these conversations, knowing the child will likely tell the cat more than she’d tell her mom. In the classroom, a child may whisper secret wishes or hopes for the day to a pet turtle, who seems to sit patiently in her tank while the child speaks. Young children assume that animals can hear and understand them when they are speaking, and often speak to animals in a way similar to the way they speak to babies. The fact that children consistently use this “special speech” to speak to animals indicates a belief that animals relate to language and vocabulary in the same way that children and adults do. Note that children generally do not talk to furniture or inanimate objects, but they COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 17