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Helping kids understand COVID-19: Fairchild AFB airman pens children’s book about coronavirus

The front and back covers of “The Day My Kids Stayed Home.” (Kickstarter via Adam Wallace)

Unless you’re in the medical field, it can be difficult to completely understand the coronavirus, or COVID-19, its associated respiratory disease.

For children, who went from going to school and seeing friends to staying inside, hearing about the pandemic can be that much more confusing.

Adam Wallace, a graduate student studying public health who also is in the Air Force and is currently stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base, is hoping to help children better understand what’s going on with his book, “The Day My Kids Stayed Home: Explaining COVID-19 and the Corona Virus to Your Kids.”

“I realized that there has been almost no information given to parents to help explain the pandemic to kids,” Wallace wrote on Kickstarter. “This book is meant to start an easy conversation with kids. There is no better way to make the topic of COVID-19 less scary than puppies.”

The first part of the book is illustrated and centers on Luna, the name of Wallace’s dog from childhood, and Maui, the name of his current dog.

Luna and Maui walk their human children to school each day, but one morning, the pups see the children are still on the couch, wearing their pajamas. The older dog then explains to the younger dog, and readers, why everyone is staying inside and how they can protect themselves against coronavirus.

One page on immunity features one of the dogs and a virus in a boxing match with the text “When people get sick with a virus, their body must learn how to beat it. This is called immunity. If your body has had a virus before, it can defeat it again! Since COVID-19 is brand new, no one has any immunity to it. That’s why so many people are getting sick so quickly.”

Another page, on the importance of washing your hands, features an image of a dog washing its paws and the text “We should always wash our hands (and paws) as much as we can! We should wash them after coming inside the house, before we eat and after going to the bathroom. The more we wash our hands, the harder it is for COVID-19 to make us and others sick!”

The second part of the book is for adults and older readers, and contains a scientific explanation of coronavirus meant to help readers lead discussions with children and answer their questions.

“If I wasn’t studying public health, I probably never would have heard ‘viral load’ or maybe known what a respirator is,” Wallace told Spokane Public Radio’s Doug Nadvornick. “My wife is a paramedic and literally on the front line of it. The two of those coming together, I have a pretty close, firsthand idea of what’s happening. So I was trying to turn that from a public health perspective and a graduate student into something that a normal person who’s not a medical student could read and understand.”

“The Day My Kids Stayed Home” is 56 pages, including pictures and text. It’s illustrated by Malaysia-based artist Adam Riong, whom Wallace found online.

“We were trying to find a local illustrator, and most people were saying it would take a month or two at least to draw a book with 30 images,” Wallace told Nadvornick. “He really got on board and said, ‘I’ll get this done in two or three days for you.’ He came back with some pretty amazing artwork. I definitely could not have put a book together and brought it to life like he did.”

By Wallace’s estimate, he began writing the book on March 16 or 17. A little more than one week later, Wallace was in contact with a publishing company. Wallace has set up a Kickstarter for the book with a goal of $1,000. As of Sunday afternoon, $766 had been pledged.

Those who pledge $5 will receive a digital download of the book. There are two $10 pledge options: a donation without a reward and a donation of a book to a school or library. Those who pledge $12 will receive a physical copy of the book, and those who pledge $15 will receive a signed copy of the book.

Wallace hopes to have a free PDF copy of “The Day My Kids Stayed Home” online soon. He also would like to have the book available for purchase, to at least make back the money he spent on the illustrations. But more than anything, he wants to get the book into the hands of as many children as possible.

“The real goal here is that there are a lot of kids that are scared and don’t know what’s happening,” Wallace told Nadvornick. “If we can get it out to them, I’d rather get it out online as a book or a PDF or a Kindle book, or whatever medium is easy for kids to read and be able to understand.”