What are the hidden messages in the storybooks we read to our kids?
That’s a question that may occur to parents as their children dive into the new books that arrived over the holidays.
And it’s a question that inspired a team of researchers to set up a study. Specifically, they wondered how the lessons varied from storybooks of one country to another.
For a taste of their findings, take a typical book in China: The Cat That Eats Letters.
Ostensibly it’s about a cat that has an appetite for sloppy letters — “written too large or too small, or if the letter is missing a stroke,” explains one of the researchers, psychologist Cecilia Cheung, a professor at University of California Riverside. “So the only way children can stop their letters from being eaten is to write really carefully and practice every day.”
But the underlying point is clear: “This is really instilling the idea of effort — that children have to learn to consistently practice in order to achieve a certain level,” says Cheung. And that idea, she says, is a core tenet of Chinese culture.