According to Unesco (as of 11 April), school closures are affecting 91% of the world’s student population – that’s over 1.5 billion children whose learning has been disrupted. They are at home and wondering what happens next. As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, the need to explain the coronavirus to children grows exponentially. And it needs to be done, everyone agrees, in an age-appropriate way. That is where the use of coronavirus books for children comes in.
Storybooks are a valuable vehicle on two counts, they can:
(1) help reassure children and
(2) teach them what they need to know for survival and adaptation.
Several medical organizations and countless child educators and health teachers have been involved in the creation of storybooks for children. While many coronavirus books for children are likely to be soon published, here’s a closer look at a few outstanding and widely different examples – that all came out within the last ten days. And all available for free download.
The United Nations Storybook: My Hero is You
Most remarkably among the (still) few books for children on coronavirus, this book which is the result of a joint effort by the United Nations inter-agency (through the IASC) has nothing of an institutional book: While its focus on diversity and internationalism is standard for a UN publication, its whimsy and invention come as a pleasing surprise.
Children from widely different cultures are the main characters (as might be expected) but remarkably, a benevolent flying monster steals the scene. This flight of fantasy is quite a feat in a book dealing with the coronavirus.
The book went through a very exacting production process.
The book project was supported by global, regional and country-based experts from participating UN Agencies of the IASC, in addition to parents, caregivers, teachers, and children in 104 countries. A global survey was distributed in Arabic, English, Italian, French and Spanish to assess children’s mental health and psychosocial needs during the COVID-19 outbreak. A framework of topics to be addressed through the story was developed using the survey results.
Finally, the book was shared through storytelling to children in several countries affected by COVID-19. Feedback from children, parents, and caregivers was then used to review and update the story. Over 1,700 children, parents, caregivers and teachers from around the world participated.
A supplementary guide called “Actions for Heroes” is to be published later. It will offer support for addressing topics related to COVID-19, helping children manage feelings and emotions, as well as supplementary activities for children to do based on the book.
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s storybook: Dr. Dog Explains the Coronavirus – on Twinkl
The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) has teamed up with well-known illustrators and publishers to launch an extensive range of free digital COVID-19 educational resources for children.
Introducing Dr Dog 🐶 – here to give you’re little ones help with understanding COVID-19!
This is an exciting project we’ve been working on with the lovely @LydiaMonks.
Access it here:https://t.co/Xs0X0i6B53
— Professor James Logan (@ProfJamesLogan) April 9, 2020
One of the first is an eBook to explore COVID-19 with EYFS children (from birth to 5 years old) through an attractive character, Dr. Dog:
Dr. Dog Explains the Coronavirus was authored by Prof. James G. Logan, of the ARCTEC team of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and illustrated by Lydia Monks. Here is the closing page with useful tips:
The ebook is available for free download on the Twinkl website, a home learning hub in several languages (including Chinese) and covering all major curricula, from the International Baccalaureate to the USA Common Core.
Twinkl, founded in 2010, has major partners like UNESCO and Save the Children, and is now able to offer over 625,000 teacher-created resources, with new content added every day. Resources range from schemes of work and assessments to augmented reality games and more. Twinkl is used by schools and educators in over 196 countries, including primary and secondary school teachers, nursery workers and parents.
Another output from the London School of Hygiene is a free book just published by Nosy Crow with help from Axel Scheffler, the illustrator most famous for his depiction of Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo.
This is a totally different book; aimed at older children, it provides complete and reliable information about the virus, how to fight it, what to expect. It was put together very fast by experts in the field of education and health, with, as noted on the cover page, nobody getting paid for their work:
The book can be downloaded on the publisher’s website (click here) where other free books to entertain children in the time of coronavirus may also be found.
One Child Educator’s Contribution: Mindheart’s COVIBOOK
COVIBOOK, a short book with a simple, catchy title created for children under the age of 7 is freely available in many languages (from English, Spanish and French to Russian, Chinese and Arabic) on Mindheart’s website (click here). I wasn’t able to check all those languages but for the three I know (English, Spanish and French), the text is adequately translated.
The point of this book is that it’s not meant as a scientific resource but as an interactive tool based on fantasy. The book’s opening makes this obvious:
As its creator put it, COVIBOOK is “an invitation for families to discuss the full range of emotions arising from the current situation.” The recommendation is to print this material so children can draw on it and interact with it.
For example, the book suggests to the child reader a series of reactions he or she could have to COVID-19:
Then it asks the child to draw his/her own reaction on a blank face:
The objective is to help very young children process their emotions through drawing and repetitive readings.
Who is the creator? Manuela Molina is a young woman from Colombia, who studied psychology and literature at the University of the Andes in Bogota and then went to the U.S. for additional training in play therapy, children’s mindfulness and yoga.
Not a book for children but one to help parents at the time of COVID-19: Tips for parenting
A free download is available on the WHO site, click here: healthy at home.
The objectives are laudable: stay positive, create a daily routine, avoid bad behavior, manage stress and still talk about COVID-19 with your children. Tips cover all age groups from toddlers to teenagers. Definitely a helpful guide to wading through the multiple challenges faced by parents with children at home.
Featured Image: You are My Hero – book cover