The team of which I’m part has worked for decades to support young readers in their journey to become lifelong learners. During this time of a global health crisis, we’re using our expertise to support all families, including limited-English-speaking households in finding information that will help them gain control over their own health and safety.
With input from members of communities that are high-risk, underserved and disproportionately affected by the virus, including immigrants and refugees with limited English language proficiency, we’ve created a growing collection of free digital books that provide the vital information individuals, families and children need for their health, safety and well-being. The books, which we’re delighted to say are featured on the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s COVID-19 resource page, include:
- Simplified text written in English and Spanish based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization guidelines categorized into four groups: Prevention, Sickness and Symptoms, Daily Life and Coping, and books for children.
- Narrations in 20+ languages by native-language speakers, including Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, Russian, Arabic, French Creole, Portuguese, French, Cantonese, Mandarin, Polish, Japanese, Italian, German, Farsi, Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu
- Culturally responsive messages and diverse images that offer familiarity and enhance understanding of the text.
As you can see by looking at the book covers in the above image, the digital books showcase topics that provide families with factual information about all matters related to health during the pandemic. Depending on children’s ages, families can read the books with their youngest members which can lead to important discussions about how to stay safe. And just as importantly, the books help children learn that books can contain authoritative, yet comforting information. Gaining this understanding about the value of books plays a wonderful part in children’s conceptions of themselves as readers.
On a lighter note, the Library Journal, a trade publication for librarians and those with whom they work, had a sweet article on facemasks for readers. Children might be more likely to embrace wearing a mask if it’s decorated in a way that strikes their fancy. A fun family activity could be for every family member to create their very own facemasks, which also can lead them to take pride in doing what’s right (as strange and uncomfortable) to keep themselves and their friends and family safe.
The novel coronavirus is likely to be around for the foreseeable future, so to find some comfort in addressing the knotty issues surrounding infection, recovery, sickness and even death, our families will need all these supports to keep our children close, safe, happy and well.