Not just the COVID-19 crisis, but many crises.
It is no longer news that the world is in crisis. Together we are facing a global pandemic. Our news feeds are inundated with articles, maps of the spread, and infection and death counts abound. The world is reasonably scrambling to respond to and contain this crisis. Unfortunately, issues that were persistent before times of crisis do not go away because of them. In fact, it compounds them and further complicates them.
Today 87% of the world’s children are out of school due to the COVID-19 crisis, the vast majority of which have no access to remote or online learning to continue their education (according to UNESCO). This disruption to their learning and routine, combined with the public health crisis, has left children in a state of uncertainty and many communities in chaos. This uncertainty is complicated to explain to children, especially when the information we are getting is inconsistent and seemingly changing by the day.
Kids are funny, though. If you are a teacher you will know this well, if you are a parent, you know this better than anyone; children are smart and they are always paying attention, even (read especially) when we prefer they would not. Times like these are the ones when we want to have carefully curated responses to their questions and be in control, but sometimes we are not in control.
Responding to any crisis usually requires a little bit of creativity.
A creative approach to crisis response
We have always had to be creative in working to solve massive problems. When we began working in the Global Learning Crisis, we developed innovative programming like Mobile Libraries and culturally responsive texts that leverage local culture to drive interest. Now, more than ever, we must be creative in our responses to our work and the global pandemic. For us, that meant picking up the pen and writing to meet families where they are at.
Unwelcome Stranger: COVID-19
We have developed the Unwelcome Stranger: COVID-19 children’s book to help children and parents navigate the uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis. The book aims to serve both adults and children; it simultaneously recognizes and validates their feelings about the current crisis, while modeling what healthy conversations look like in uncertain times.
The book is about a girl named Faith who one day begins to notice things are different in her community. It shows her and her family navigating and doing their part to protect themselves and others in the time of crisis. The book creates a timely narrative for children to identify with, serves to validate their concerns, model self-efficacy, and empower their intuitions.
We hope the book will help all families understand the power, control, and agency that they do have within this crisis.
Additionally, it directs families on where to find valid information and updates from official sources. Of course, this narrative is complemented with a variety of project-based learning activities, relevant to the crisis, for children to do at home with their families and discussion guides on how to talk about it at home.
The book is available through digital, audio, and print formats distributed through collaborations with existing ministries and organizations working in communities. You can even watch the digital storytelling of the book here. With translations in 13 languages, the book will be relevant to countries across the African continent and relevant to readers around the world! All of these resources are available for free. We are willing to work with any partner to make sure they will get into their communities to support children until this crisis is over.
We hope these materials can help your community, your organization, your family, and we hope that this book shares a narrative of faith in ourselves and others within this uncertain time. And of course, that it inspires you to innovate a little creativity in times of crisis.
This guest blog was written by Drew Edwards, co-founder of Pangea Educational Development.