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Book by NCID head looks at pandemic through eyes of children

Book by NCID head looks at pandemic through eyes of children

Prof Leo News Article on Book Launch.JPG

Centre for Infectious Diseases executive director Leo Yee Sin said she was inspired to translate her observations working on the front lines of the pandemic into writing for children, in her book titled My Coronavirus Story. Professor Leo and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung launched the book at Woodlands Regional Library yesterday. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN


​As a veteran researcher and scientist, Professor Leo Yee Sin, 62, has published hundreds of papers filled with terms and diagrams that would make a layman sweat.


But the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) executive director’s latest work is written in rhyme, and filled with drawings done by children and youth, some as young as five years old.

The book, titled My Coronavirus Story, captures perspectives of the pandemic through the eyes of a young child, and is aimed at educating the young about Covid-19 and encouraging resilience as the world lives with the virus.

Written for readers aged four to 12, it was launched by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung at Woodlands Regional Library yesterday.

The book, supported by the National Healthcare Group (NHG), pays tribute to the courage and selfless contributions of front-line workers in steering Singapore into the endemic stage of the pandemic.

Prof Leo, who read the book on stage with Mr Ong, said the pandemic has been a confusing period for children as they try to make sense of the changes around them.

“I saw first-hand what it means to be on the front line dealing with Covid-19, and I was inspired to translate my observations into the perspective of the young – to explain the virus in a simple manner, describe how it has impacted their lives, and help them see the way forward,” she said.

Professor Benjamin Seet, NHG’s deputy group chief executive for education and research, said the idea for the book was conceived in March.

At the time, NHG had worked with the Singapore Art Society to put together an exhibition to honour front-line workers.

As part of that exhibition, an art competition was held, with about 1,000 entries submitted by children and youth. NHG then compiled 21 of them into a book.

“While many of them appear simple, they convey the views and perceptions of young children who have been affected by this pandemic, like us,” said Prof Seet, adding that schools were closed and co-curricular activities cancelled as a result of the pandemic.

Prof Leo said she was initially hesitant to write the book as it was an endeavour that was out of her comfort zone.

But she was inspired by the artwork submitted by the children, and their efforts to pay tribute to healthcare workers.

“I think it’s very important for children to understand that they are part of a society and carry the same risk as anyone in the community,” said Prof Leo, adding that she hoped the book would allow children to be more aware of concepts like why personal hygiene is important and help parents communicate such ideas.

Prof Leo added that the book’s launch coincided nicely with the recent announcement that children from five to 11 years old will be able to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine.

“The virus doesn’t differentiate whether you are a kid or an elderly (person)... so whenever there’s technology or a tool available for us to protect ourselves, it should be used,” she said, adding that vaccines are one such tool.

When asked about the Omicron variant, Prof Leo said: “Omicron’s arrival is one of those unanticipated moments, so do have an open mind and be flexible. We have to watch the virus very closely... to be able to put up our defences and responses appropriately.”

About 1,000 copies of the book have been printed and members of the public will be able to borrow them from most public libraries.

They will also be distributed to all primary schools.

Prof Seet said: “Educating the public has been key during this pandemic, but efforts to reach out to young children have been limited.

“This book serves to fill the gap, and its bright colours bring a message of hope in this time of fear.”

Read the full article here.

Source: The Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

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