by Gemma Handy
The importance of empathy and being kind to animals is at the heart of a new book being distributed to thousands of local primary schoolchildren.
The colouring book produced by the Humane Society aims to teach youngsters everything from properly caring for their pets to understanding animal behaviour.
The society hopes it will reap dividends in children’s social skills and future prospects, says its president Karen Corbin.
“It will be entertaining for the child but we are also hoping that parents and teachers will use the book as a teaching tool,” she explained.
“It’s so important that children learn to look after animals; there’s a very established link between cruelty to animals and human violence, such as domestic abuse, and we are hoping to reach the children at a tender age.”
Corbin said the book also highlights how having a pet to care for can boost youngsters’ self-esteem.
“They go home from school, maybe they’ve had a bad day, they sit with Frisky and Frisky listens, they pet Frisky and Frisky loves them no matter what,” she added.
Five thousand copies of the book are now being distributed to more than 80 local schools. The text has been written by Corbin and the vibrant designs created with assistance from Humane Society volunteer Sam Plowman.
Cartoon images show children how to treat animals kindly, how to bathe and groom them, and to ensure they always have adequate food and water.
Plowman, from Yorkshire in the UK, has been in Antigua since March via the country’s digital nomad programme. She has been helping out at the Bethesda-based Humane Society which, in addition to working to improve animal welfare, runs the famed Donkey Sanctuary along with a shelter for dogs and cats.
Plowman told Observer she had been delighted to lend a hand with the publication.
“I am an absolute animal lover; I work with the cats, the dogs, I clean them out, I just started doing training with the dogs and I help care for the donkeys,” she told Observer.
Plowman added that the animals depicted in the book include several of the sanctuary’s current four-legged residents.
Yesterday morning, Jennings Primary School became the first school to receive copies of the book.
“The children have missed a lot of contact time due to the pandemic and so some necessary skills have been underdeveloped,” explained Deputy Principal Mariella Miller.
“The book helps them to see these skills are important so, while colouring, they develop those attributes needed to interact with their peers, such as empathy, concern, care, generosity and love.”
Ten-year-old pupil Jahreal Lehkem was one of the first recipients.
“What I like about the book is all the animals in there, which are very fun to play with,” he told Observer.
“At home I have a cow, a donkey and a rabbit. The rabbit’s name is Rex and my cow name is Betty.
“If you look after animals they might come back to help you if you are in danger,” he added.
The book was created as part of the Humane Society’s landmark 30th anniversary celebrations.