An interview with Jessica Almy,creator of VegBooks, a delightful collaboration of teachers, educators, librarians committed to creating a loving world that respects all creatures great and small. One book review at a time VegBooks provides parents with resources to teach children about vegetarian and vegan lifestyles.
Ms.CoCoVanDerChic: To you, what does it mean to be vegan?
Jessica Almy: Veganism is about making mindful, compassionate choices in all aspects of life. We eat foods from plants. We choose products not tested on animals. We stand up for those who are voiceless.
Being vegan is a practice, rather than a state of perfection. It’s about making the best choices I can each day. It’s important to remember that every day, all of us, vegan and nonvegan alike, are all faced with these choices and have the opportunity to choose kindness.
Ms.CoCoVanDerChic: Why do you choose a vegan lifestyle?
Jessica Almy: I was raised to love animals. My family started an animal shelter and rehabilitated injured wildlife. One day, I sat down to dinner, and asked myself, “Why save one and eat another?” Veganism is the answer to that question. I love being vegan because now my daily choices reflect my values.
Ms.CoCoVanDerChic: Tell us what you love about Veg Books?
Jessica Almy: Vegbooks is an incredible collaboration among parents, humane educators, and librarians, who care about animals, the earth, and healthy living. Not only do I love getting recommendations for my daughter’s bookshelf — I’ve discovered some great books! It’s great to connect with other people who care about creating a world full of health and free of suffering.
Ms.CoCoVanDerChic: At what age do you recommend parents start teaching children about a Vegan, earth friendly lifestyle?
Jessica Almy: My daughter has been vegan since birth, and we try to make choices that are kind to the earth. Different aspects of our lifestyle come up at different ages. First, I taught her that we don’t drink cow’s milk and eat chicken’s eggs because they belong to the cows and the chickens. Next, she asked about meat, and I explained that getting meat from an animal requires ending that animal’s life. Now that she’s six, we are beginning to get into more specifics — the pollution caused by industrial animal agriculture, why we participate in a farm share, the exploitation inherent in performing animal acts and dog racing, and the like.
The short answer is that it’s never too early to teach children about being kind to animals and the earth — it’s merely a matter of finding age-appropriate ways to do so. That’s part of the reason I love books and movies. They’re great conversation starters!
Ms.CoCoVanDerChic: How do you feel about the controversy surrounding a recently published book ‘Vegan is Love?’ Should parents shy away from teaching a topic to children because it is ‘too scary’?
Jessica Almy: I love our copy of Vegan Is Love! Ruby Roth’s new book is a delight, empowering children to create lives that they’re proud of by making compassionate choices. Ms. Roth methodically goes through the most prevalent ways in which our culture exploits animals, explaining them in simple terms ideal for kids, and then after each one, gives children more compassionate alternatives. Instead of supporting circuses with elephants and tigers, for example, we can go see acts like Cirque du Soleil, where every performer wants to perform.
The truth about what we do to animals is scary. If we don’t want to tell our children about it, then we ought to stop doing it. Ms. Roth’s book tells it like it is, in a way that’s appropriate for most kids 7 to 12. We’re underestimating children if we think that we need to lie to them about how society treats animals, rather than explain it accurately in a straightforward and age-appropriate way, and provide information about how to make kinder, more compassionate choices.
Ms.CoCoVanDerChic: What do you love most about creating your website veg books?
Jessica Almy: I love giving parents, caregivers, and teachers information about books and movies that allows them to make good decisions about media choices for the vegetarian and vegan kids in their lives. Together, we can raise children who value life, the connections between humans and other animals, and the need to protect the earth and all its inhabitants.