So Anna's starting to read. It's really exciting.
Yesterday she was reading a Biscuit book, which are early reading books about a dog, Biscuit, who does things and says "Woof!" (I should write ad copy for children's books.) The one she was reading had a frog hopping on a log.
"The frog hopped on the log," she read and turned the page.
"It was..." she stopped, "Wait, that shouldn't say 'it,' it should say 'he.' I'm going to change it. He was hot on top of the log."
I told her she's right that we shouldn't refer to animals as "it", but corrected the change in this specific instance, since it was analogous to saying, "It's hot outside." The "it" in the book referred to the temperature of the log, not the frog. (Yes, she understood. And yes, I'm the son of an English teacher.)
But still, I'm pleased to see that she's understanding that animals aren't "its" and that they are, in fact, "hes" and "shes," or if you're unsure, "hes or shes," or the always generic but useful "theys."
I have, of course, talked to her about this subject before. If we lived in a world that didn't use words like "it" to describe sentient individuals, I wouldn't have to talk with her about it. But we do. So I do.
When I read a book that refers to an animal as "it" I will change the word to either "he" or "she" often without mentioning that I'm doing it. She knows that I do it though, because I will occasionally tell her when I make the change.
I will also change, for example, a mention of eggs (if they're being eaten by someone) to tofu. Again, I don't mention it to her every time I do it, but I have told her that I do it and I've explained that I change the words because I don't think the way it's written is nice to animals.
The time will come pretty soon when she will know exactly when I do this, and soon after that she'll read them on her own, and she'll realize just how many of her books refer to animals in this way. She may be surprised or dismayed, but I doubt it. She's very used to being the only vegan in a situation (for example, her class at school) and she knows full well that most people aren't vegan. She seems to be comfortable with those facts (though if you ask her, she'll tell you that she'd like everyone to be vegan).
She probably gets that from her dad.
Anyway, to make this long story shorter, she hasn't even fully learned to read yet and she's already correcting speciesist language. Go vegan kids!