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WHEN VIEWING ON A MOBILE DEVICE -- DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM 2 Why Are Children So Interested in Animals, Anyway? Ava has loved cats since she was old enough to turn her head and watch the family cat strut across the room. Now that she’s six, she even knows when her pet’s birthday is, often makes cards and gifts for him, and runs to greet him each day when she arrives home from school. Matthew watches out the classroom window at his preschool each morning, waiting for “his” squirrel to hop by. Jasmine loves horses and ponies, and although she’s never seen one in real life, her teacher says she’s almost obsessed with them—​she draws pictures of them and selects books about them, and her favorite toy is a stuffed horse. Whatever form a child’s love for animals takes, it’s obvious that animals are very special to children. Some children are more forthcoming about their love than others. Some children have lots of favorites, and others limit their love to just one or two. What seems to be universally true is that just about any child you ask will be able to tell you something he loves about animals. Ask a shy child what her favorite animal is, and she’ll open up right away. Children love to tell stories about their own pets, animals they’ve seen in the wild, special memories of the zoo, and other meaningful events. This alone tells us something basic and simple: animals are important and special to children. Many people intuitively understand but perhaps have never heard of the “biophilia hypothesis,” the idea, put forward by biologist Edward O. Wilson in 1984, that humans have a natural affinity for other living things—​plants, animals, and the natural environment. According to Wilson, because we are alive, we humans all share an innate need to associate with other living creatures. In recent years, many early childhood educators have recognized 6 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL