Children’s book helps kids learn how to prevent COVID-19 spread

Mar 5, 2021

Sabrina Wang and Nairy Khodabakhshian with booksTwo students at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine are helping kids learn about COVID-19 prevention through a new book.

Sabrina Wang, a first-year MD student and Nairy Khodabakhshian, a Master’s student in the Institute of Medical Science (IMS), co-wrote the story with Jenny Zhu, a second-year MDstudent at McMaster University.

The book – Ronnie Bear’s Health Scare: A Children’s Book on COVID-19 Safety – hasrhyming text and colourful illustrations to tell the story of a young bear’s experience with COVID-like symptoms.

The students self-published the book.

Proceeds from the book will fund the donation of copies of the book to pediatric hospitals across Ontario, and schools in communities impacted by COVID-19.

They recently spoke with writer Erin Howe about their book.

What inspired this project?

Sabrina: I used to volunteer at children’s hospitals where I would read to the kids during my shifts, and I saw how happy it made them.

Since I like drawing, I wanted to illustrate my own book for them.

I reached out to Jenny, who enjoys writing and has a background in clinical pediatric research.

Nairy, who has extensive clinical pediatric experience, has also worked with book sales and publishing.

Given our shared interests and passion to give back to our communities, we worked together to develop a children’s book.

Can you tell us more about the book?

Jenny: Our book is geared toward kids between 4 to ten years old.

The story focuses on a young bear, who learns about how to prevent illness for himself and the friends and family around him, by handwashing, social distancing, and wearing a mask.

Growing up, I loved reading Berenstein Bears and Little Bear books — they were the inspiration for the main characters in our book.

We hoped that friendly, relatable animal characters could help convey key lessons about COVID-19 precautions in a memorable way.

We also wanted to emphasize the concept of social responsibility by highlighting Ronnie Bear’s wish to stay safe to protect his grandfather, parents and classmates.

We hope to help kids see how their actions might impact others and transform their fear into positive motivation.

Who has helped support this initiative?

Nairy: This book was developed over six months through extensive collaborations and a revision process with several medical and health care students, as well as work with Ronald McDonald House Charities and people in publishing programs.

We also received support from Dr. Stacey Bernstein, Dr. Tanvi Agarwal, and Dr. Vitor Guerra.

Additionally, we consulted with parents and teachers to ensure that our book was conveying the story in an inclusive, empathetic and understandable way.

Colleagues at Temerty Faculty of Medicine helped us develop a free list of links to COVID-19 resources like educational videos and games, and information for parents about food security, physical activity, accessing mental health services and vaccinations during the pandemic.

Who has the book impacted?

Sabrina: Since publishing in January, we have sold more than 200 copies of the book and won an award for our book.

We were also able to deliver our first round of books to Ronald McDonald House in Toronto and several pediatric hospitals. Various IMS faculty are also sharing the book.

Our book sales have expanded internationally.

It is such an incredibly heartwarming feeling to know that what had started out as a creative idea back in 2020 is now a tangible book able to positively impact children and their families.