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Hans and the Gruffalo? LSHTM supporting children’s COVID-19 education

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) has teamed up with well-known illustrators and publishers to launch an extensive range of free digital COVID-19 educational resources for children.
Graham Medley's COVID-19 book with Axel Scheffler. Credit: Nosy Crow

These are confusing, uncertain times for us all, and juggling working from home with childcare and home school is an issue for many families. This exciting new campaign aims to support and educate children and parents on the science behind COVID-19.

Through illustrated books, and new and existing cartoon characters, this campaign and its innovative educational materials aim to engage young people in public health at this vital time, as well as provide reassurance and support for their wellbeing.

The friendly faces helping children learn the science behind COVID-19

The ‘Hans on COVID’ campaign is headed up by scientists from the ARCTEC team at LSHTM and developed in partnership with the global communications consultancy Ketchum. It is fronted by a new cartoon character called Hans, who will be giving parents and teachers a helping hand, and handy tips, to engage children in public health science in the weeks and months ahead.

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As part of this campaign, the team is also working with the online educational publisher Twinkl to produce an exciting range of free online resources tailored for different age groups, from two to 18 years-old.

Stories, games and activities will be available to teachers, parents and carers to download at www.twinkl.co.uk, where thousands of teaching resources are downloaded daily by parents and teachers around the world.  The team will be working with many experts at LSHTM, as well as STEM and the British Science Association.

To bring this vision to life for younger children, the team has worked with renowned children’s author and illustrator Lydia Monks, who illustrated the What the Ladybird Heard books, to create another caring character, called Dr Dog, who is aimed at educating and providing reassurance to young children.

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Together with child psychologists, the team are developing resources designed to not only educate, but support and reassure children, as well as parents and teachers during this difficult time.

The ‘Hans on COVID’ campaign will run for six months initially, evolving as recommendations change and health advice is updated. In the longer term, the ARCTEC team will be translating and adapting these educational resources into different languages to run programmes in low income countries, combining the COVID-19 messaging with other public health messages around other diseases, such as malaria.

Professor James Logan, who is spearheading this campaign, said: “It’s been a lot of fun coming up with the characters and working with some wonderfully creative and talented people. But there is an important side to this.

“For many young people, in the UK and around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is a time of uncertainty, confusion and anxiety, with lots of misinformation online. As a parent myself, I felt there was a bit of a gap when it came to support for giving accurate information to children in an engaging what that didn’t scare them”

Two free digital books on COVID-19 with Axel Scheffler and Lydia Monks

Working with illustrators Axel Scheffler, who illustrated The Gruffalo, and Lydia Monks, LSHTM experts have developed two e-books for pre-school and primary school age children about the novel coronavirus, and the measures taken to control it.

Professor Graham Medley acted as consultant on the book with Axel Scheffler, working with publishers Nosy Crow, who also took advice from two head teachers and a child psychologist.

They aim to answer key questions in simple language appropriate for two to nine year-olds, from what the virus is and what happens if you catch it, to why some places are closed and what’s going to happen next. Nosy Crow wanted to make sure the book was accessible to every child and family, so it is completely free to read on screen or print out.

Professor Medley said: “This pandemic is changing children’s lives across the globe and will have a lasting impact on us all. Helping children understand what is going on is an important step in helping them cope and making them a part of the story. This book puts children in the picture, rather than just watching it happen, and in a way that makes the scary parts easier to cope with.”

ARCTEC scientists worked with illustrator Lydia Monks on another free e-book using their Dr Dog character. This book is aimed at children aged two to five years-old and will also be hosted on Twinkl.

Lydia Monks said, “It’s hard for grown-ups to come to terms with what is happening at the moment. It’s even harder for children! Some little ones find it hard to understand why they can’t go to nursery or school. Why they can’t see granny and grandad or play with their friends. I am happy to help reach out to families to help in this little way.”

A copy of Axel Scheffler’s book can be downloaded here.

A copy of Lydia Monk’s book can be downloaded here.

COVID-19 Response Fund

There cannot be any complacency as to the need for global action.

With your help, we can plug critical gaps in the understanding of COVID-19. This will support global response efforts and help to save lives around the world.