Children’s Book Helps Explain COVID-19

A man in a white coat and gloves works in a labAs schools across the U.S. started to close down in the wake of COVID-19, children were told that they wouldn’t be going back for the foreseeable future.

While some kid might enjoy starting their summer vacation early, others miss seeing teachers and friends.

Medical students Devon Scott and Samantha Harris saw an opportunity to help.

The cover of a bookThe duo recently published a children’s book that aims to help children ages 3 to 8 understand the complex topic of COVID-19 titled, “Why We Stay Home.”

“Kids are very curious and may be asking why they aren’t at school, or why they can’t hang out with their friends, or why people wear masks at grocery stores,” said Scott, a medical student from Loma Linda University in California who is currently completing a research fellowship year in the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. “We wanted to add a resource to bridge the conversation gap between parents and children in an easy-to-understand way.”

“Why We Stay Home” breaks down this complicated topic with a conversation between sisters Millie and Suzie. Older sister Millie explains the novel coronavirus and its effects while Suzie asks about it. Scott said he and Harris wanted the story to be framed as a conversation between two sisters instead of a narrator telling a story for a more relatable feel. The book’s illustrations were created by Harriet Rodis, a friend of the authors.

“There’s a lot of information out there about COVID. We realized as medical students that it can be overwhelming with things constantly changing,” said Harris, also in med school at Loma Linda University, focusing on pediatric medicine. “We wanted to explain terms like social distancing or quarantine in a simple manner while remaining accurate about what the virus does and who it affects.”

“We want parents to have a conversation with children about what’s going on with this public health issue. We want them to be open with their kids and say ‘Hey, let’s read this story together,’” Scott said. “The overarching theme here is as long as we stick together, we’re going to get through this. Things will slowly, but surely get back to the way things were before.” 

Scott and Harris are working on a series of children’s books that aim to educate a younger audience on different body systems and how physicians care for them.

At Pitt, Scott is working with advisor MaCalus V. Hogan, associate professor in Pitt’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the department’s vice chair of education.

Two people wearing white smile for the camera“I told him that any positivity he can bring during these difficult times or at any time is of value. When they told me they were going to distribute it for free, so the kids could have access to it online, I thought it was admirable. It’s proactive and inspiring of them to do this,” Hogan said. “I have a 4 and 7-year-old daughter and my wife and I are both physicians, and we thought this was very positive to see.”

Scott currently works in the MechanoBiology Laboratory in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. His research focuses on tendon wound healing, specifically of the Achilles and patellar tendons. He also works with foot and ankle-related patient reported outcomes and epidemiology studies on foot and ankle-related sports injuries. 

Scott said he chose to do his research at Pitt because of the department’s research background and leadership.

“I strongly believe that research is the driving force of innovation and the University of Pittsburgh is at the forefront of this,” he said.

Scott and Harris said they will continue writing children’s books after they’re finished with their medical school studies, including branching out to different medical fields.

“We asked ourselves what the end goal was for this first book. We thought a good goal may be reaching 100 children, but clearly the book has surpassed our expectations. We now have 40,000 downloads from around the world,” Harris said. “This is something we never could have imagined, but we’re really happy to be able to share this with so many children.”