During this time when the entire world is facing a pandemic, much has changed. Jobs are done remotely, movie theaters and malls are closed, and everywhere you go in public spacing has been adjusted to encourage people to stay 6 feet apart and masks are worn by all. It’s a lot of change to happen in such a short period of time for everyone, but even more so for children. The last few months of the previous school year were finished online and it’s looking like schools will continue to be online in many places for some time to come. With all of these changes happening, children are searching for answers: why are mom and dad always at home now? Why can’t they have friends over for playdates? What happened to going to the waterpark or the beach in the summer?
Samantha Harris and Devon Scott, two students from Loma Linda University School of Medicine, came up with a free downloadable children’s book to answer these exact sort of questions. The pair came up with the idea one evening as they were talking about the COVID pandemic. As Harris says,”One night, you know, I was at home talking with Devon. And we were just talking about how, as medical students, we were kind of overwhelmed by the ever-changing amount of information available about COVID.” Devon Scott adds, “I took a step back and said, like, you know, throughout this whole thing, a population that is kind of being left out of the mix are kids.”As he saw it, “Some of them could be happy that they’re with their moms and dads or whoever their caregiver is, but do they really understand why we’re at home? They hear the word COVID-19. Do they know what that means? So we wanted to kind of make a resource that explained to them, you know, why we have been quarantining, what does social distancing mean, in a non-threatening way that little kids could enjoy.”
The book is a short read, only 9 pages long, an easy-to-use guide to explaining what coronavirus is, who is at greatest risk of infection, and the steps that can be taken to keep oneself and others safe. In the sort tale, Millie explains to her younger sister Suzie why their parents have been staying home lately and the reasons quarantine is so important. The book is clearly and simply written with care taken to highlight key terms that children might hear being thrown around these days, words like “social distancing”, “virus” and “quarantine”. Scott explains, “We wanted to create this free resource to help parents explain to their children why it’s important to stay home and remind them that this won’t last forever.”
When Harris and Scott set out to write the book and commissioned illustrations by Harriet Rodis to bring the text to life, they were thinking small, hoping to reach 100 families or so. They were shocked by the praise and enthusiam with which their work was met. Why We Stay Home has been downloaded over 35,000 times since its release on April 23. Both authors are now working to translate the book into six other languages, including American Sign Language. It is important to them that clear, helpful information may be available to families with children around the world at no cost. It is a passion project for both Scott and Harris.
Another admirable aspect of the book is its diversity. Millie and Suzie are black and the nine pages of story show an array of children from all races learning how to live responsibly and stay safe. Scott had this to say on the decision: “So, when I was a child in that age range, I can recall only a very, very few storybooks that I read that had somebody that looked like me on them. And when I did see those books, I was, like, super excited, because, hey, that little boy looks like me.” Harris added, “We wanted young children to kind of look in the book and say, oh, wow, this little girl looks like me. She has an afro just like me. Her big sister looks like me. Her mommy and daddy look like my mommy and daddy.”
Coronavirus and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are not events limited to one region or country. They have literally affected the entire world. Now more than ever it is important for people to band together in communication and cooperation in order to bring this pandemic to an end as quickly and safely as possible. To have a book that communicates these messages to children in a friendly, helpful way they can easily understand is priceless, so valuable that it doesn’t cost a cent.
If you would like to download the book yourself, you can click the link here. There are also recordings of the book being read aloud if this is preferable or easier for you or your loved ones. Be sure to wear a mask and stay safe out there!