Coronavirus book series paints picture of pandemic through children’s eyes

The books are available in four languages and braille. Illustration by Nathi Ngubane

With schools closed, daycare centres shut and restrictions on play dates, it has not been easy being a kid during the coronavirus pandemic.

And if you’re a parent, then you might have come across these questions: Why do we need to wear a mask? Why do we have to sanitize? Why can’t I go outside and play with my friends?

Duma says, a three-part children’s book series, is attempting to answer those questions and illustrate with eye-catching images some creative ways of having safe fun.

“I felt that I needed to create a learning material for kids to help them understand … what is going on, what is the coronavirus, how it spreads, how to protect yourself,” Nathi Ngubane, a South African author and illustrator, told Global News.

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“At the same time to give them hope instead of giving them more fear.”

Social Bandit Media, a small independent publishing company that does work in Johannesburg and New York City, launched the crowd-funded initiative last July.

The series is for children between the ages of four and 10 and the e-versions can be downloaded for free online. A third instalment is set to be released worldwide on Friday.

The paperback versions of the books are available on Amazon. Illustration by Nathi Ngubane

Set in an unnamed informal settlement in urban South Africa, the colourful books follow the adventures of the main character Duma and his friends as they try to go about their daily lives during the pandemic.

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All across the world, school closures in a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have had a crippling impact on children.

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The United Nations says the pandemic has caused the largest disruption in education in history, with more than a billion students affected since July last year.

Recent data collected by UNESCO found that classrooms for 320 million children were closed, as of Dec. 1.

In Canada, while provinces have predominantly switched to online learning, some regions in Ontario resumed in-person classes on Monday.

Bored with playing games and missing his own school, in the second book, Duma says: “If we can’t go to school, why can’t the school come to us?”

With the help of their parents and elders in the community, the kids then end up creating an outdoor learning shelter.

Click to play video: 'New children’s book tackles anxiety'
New children’s book tackles anxiety

Azad Essa, editor and publisher, said the purpose of the books is to make children feel that they have some control over their lives and can continue learning and playing despite the pandemic.

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Growing up as a child in this world right now is actually very terrifying,” he told Global News.

“I feel that because kids are so naturally open to new ideas all the time, when they see these stories … it allows them to escape from their reality for a moment.”

Children sitting with physical distancing attend classes in an outdoor learning shelter. Illustration by Nathi Ngubane

The books were written in consultation with health experts and medical professionals to make sure the guidance was as accurate as possible, Ngubane said.

The books are available in four languages, including English, as well as braille for readers with visual disabilities.

The paperback versions can be ordered on Amazon and all the proceeds are going towards a school for specials needs in Durban, South Africa.

A fourth instalment looking at the A to Z of coronavirus is also in the works, Essa and Ngubane said.


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