IMS Student and Peers Develop Children’s Book on COVID-19 Safety

Mar 4, 2021
Sarah Topa

It has now been a year of living with the COVID-19 pandemic. Children have just returned to in-person learning from another school shutdown in Southern Ontario and safety precautions are still as important as ever. Recognizing the need to simplify complex medical information for young children, Institute of Medical Science student Nairy Khodabakhshian and her peers Sabrina Wang, MD Candidate at the University of Toronto (U of T), and Jenny Zhu, MD Candidate at McMaster University, came together to create an illustrated children’s book on COVID-19 safety. The book, “Ronnie Bear’s Health Scare,” uses cute fictional animal characters, bright colours and simple rhymes to creatively communicate the importance of safety measures such as social distancing and wearing a mask.  

“Our goal was to take that fear and anxiety children may have about COVID-19 and create an accessible resource to help them.” shares Nairy, a first year Master’s student doing research in paediatric cardiology.

Nairy, Sabrina and Jenny worked closely with a number of stakeholders to ensure the book was as accurate and helpful as possible, while also incorporating a diversity of voices. They consulted with fellow students at U of T and McMaster, research colleagues, clinicians and parents of hospitalized children. They also received support and guidance from Drs. Tanvi Agarwal, Stacey Bernstein and Vitor Guerra, all pediatricians at the Hospital for Sick Children and faculty at U of T.

The book was self-published on Amazon for hard copy and digital sale at the beginning of this year. It was important for the creators to share this resource on a widely and easily accessible platform. All profits from the sales of the book are being used to donate copies to local schools and hospitals. Nairy, Sabrina and Jenny are also working with the MD Program at U of T to distribute the books in schools across the Greater Toronto Area.

So far the response to “Ronnie Bear’s Health Scare” has been overwhelmingly positive. At one point the book reached the #1 spot globally on Amazon in the “Children’s Books on Safety” category. The most rewarding part of this whole project, says Nairy, has been hearing how helpful the book has been for families with young children; knowing that the book is being well-received and is having an impact is so encouraging and makes all the hours spent and hard work worth it.