UCT academic authors free COVID-19 children’s book

28 April 2020 | Story Carla Bernardo. Read time 3 min.
&ldquo;Oaky and the Virus&rdquo; is free to download and suitable for children nine years old and younger. <b>Photo</b> <a href="https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-girl-smiling-while-holding-tablet-computer-4144103/" target="_blank">Pexels</a>.
“Oaky and the Virus” is free to download and suitable for children nine years old and younger. Photo Pexels.

“I ... must ... stay at home, not go out. Wash wash wash wash wash my hands. Wear a mask, don’t see friends. Wash wash wash wash wash my hands.”

That’s the song Oaky wants every child to know and sing twice to help them stay safe and healthy while also having fun.

Oaky is a fictional little acorn and the star of the Oaky series of fun picture books for children. Oaky and the Virus is one of seven books in the series, all of which were written by Athol Williams, senior lecturer at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business (GSB), and illustrated by management consultant Taryn Lock.

In addition to Williams’s work at the GSB, where he specialises in corporate responsibility and ethical leadership, he is also an acclaimed author, poet and, along with Lock, co-founder of the non-profit organisation Read to Rise.

Due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Oaky publisher Theart Press has released the book for free distribution and download to help keep children at home, reading and avoiding infection. Theart Press also encourages the public to contribute to Read to Rise, which is fundraising for care packs for children in vulnerable communities.

Fun and educational

Oaky and the Virus follows Oaky and his sister, Oaket, as they learn about COVID-19 in a fun, accessible and educational way. As soon as the two acorns learn about the virus, they quickly practise the appropriate safety measures: they wear their masks, wash their hands and stay at home.

Oaky and his sister, Oaket. Illustration Taryn Lock.

In the established Oaky tradition, the story is followed by a quiz, which helps children with comprehension skills and allows parents and teachers to engage with children about what they’ve read.

The ebook is also accompanied by a YouTube video, which teaches children the song, and translations of the book in all official languages are underway, with Sepedi and isiZulu versions already available.

Williams encourages parents to send their children’s reactions to the book and the song via email or share it on social media.

Olwen Manuel, deputy director of UCT’s Communication and Marketing Department, reads “Oaky and the Virus” with her children, Beth and Zach.

And remember, you must:

“Stay at home, not go out. Wash wash wash wash wash my hands. Wear a mask, don’t see friends. Wash wash wash wash wash my hands.”

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The Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital, are producing educational video material for use on digital platforms and in multiple languages. The information contained in these videos is authenticated and endorsed by the team of experts based in the Department of Medicine. Many of the recommendations are based on current best evidence and are aligned to provincial, national and international guidelines. For more information on UCT’s Department of Medicine, please visit the website.

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In an email to the UCT community, Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said:
“COVID-19, caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, is a rapidly changing epidemic. [...] Information [...] will be updated as and when new information becomes available.”


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