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A book that teaches children 'Why We Stay Home'


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Judy Woodruff: The uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic has upended the daily lives of children across the globe, and parents and caregivers have struggled to explain the changes brought by COVID-19.

Two medical students in California told the "PBS NewsHour" that their desire to help bridge that gap inspired them to write a free children's book called "Why We Stay Home."

Samantha Harris: My name is Samantha Harris.

Devon Scott: Hi. My name is Devon Scott.

Samantha Harris: I am a fourth-year medical student.

Devon Scott: I'm a fourth-year medical student at Loma Linda University in Southern California.

Samantha Harris: 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: 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.

Samantha Harris: 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.

Devon Scott: So, a lot of books that we have seen that are trying to tell hard topics to kids is really from a narrator or parent-to-child standpoint.

But we wanted to switch that up, wanted to make it a little bit more relatable. So, in the story, it's an older sister comforting and talking to her younger sister.

Narrator: "What is a coronavirus, anyway?" asked Suzie. "Coronavirus is a virus. A virus is a really small germ that you cannot see. There are other kinds of germs, too, like bacteria and fungi."

Samantha Harris: Even though we would be explaining it to little children, we wanted the book to be as accurate as possible.

So there were some key concepts. What populations are we trying to help keep safe? Wearing a mask. Standing six feet apart. We wanted to kind of explain to children, so that they not only know what COVID is, but why we have been doing what we're doing.

Devon Scott: 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.

Samantha Harris: 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.

Devon Scott: It's just about being as relatable as possible. We wanted to make this book free, because we wanted to be very accessible.

Samantha Harris: We didn't want socioeconomic status to be a limiting factor when it came to reading and educating kids about careers and about medicine.

Devon Scott: The response has been absolutely phenomenal. We counted it as a success if 100 kids downloaded the book. But, so far, it's been over 40,000 downloads worldwide.

Samantha Harris: I feel like, throughout this whole time, there have been countless stories of human beings just rallying together and just, you know, loving and supporting each other.

So, I think the main message of the book is actually found at the end of the book, the very last page, when Suzie is looking up to her big sister, Millie, for kind of comfort and support.

And she's like, is this the way it's going to be forever, from now on? And Millie kind of says, you know, no, Suzie. It will get better. We just have to keep sticking together.

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