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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UCT’s response to COVID-19

COVID-19 is a global pandemic that caused President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a national disaster in South Africa on 15 March 2020 and to implement a national lockdown from 26 March 2020.

UCT is taking the threat of infection in our university community extremely seriously, and this page will be updated regularly with the latest COVID-19 information. Please note that the information on this page is subject to change depending on current lockdown regulations.


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Commemorating a year of COVID-19

At midnight on 26 March 2020, South Africa went into the first nationwide hard lockdown. A year later, we remember those who have died and those who have been affected by COVID-19, as well as the pandemic’s effects across society and campus. We are especially grateful for the front-line health workers who have done so much for so many.

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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.”


We are continuing to monitor the situation and we will be updating the UCT community regularly – as and when there are further updates. If you are concerned or need more information, students can contact the Student Wellness Service on 021 650 5620 or 021 650 1271 (after hours), while staff can contact 021 650 5685.