Trying to help children understand the pandemic and the “new normal” associated with COVID-19 can be difficult for parents and teachers.
During these challenging and uncertain times, ASU alumna and educator, Dr. Tasha Thompson-Gray, decided to try to make it easier for parents and teachers to have an age-appropriate discussion about the virus.
Her new book, “The ABCs of COVID-19: Helping Children Understand the Global Pandemic,” helps children navigate the changes and understand and come to terms with the pandemic.
“I wanted the kids to have a better understanding of what is actually happening, to understand why their friends can’t come over, why they can’t have a regular birthday party, why team sports, community events and social gatherings were canceled, and why their school was shut down. Children all around the world have been touched by the virus. I thought the book would be something good to get in their hands and a useful tool for parents and teachers in explaining it,” Thompson-Gray said.
The book is geared toward children 7-10 years old, but Thompson-Gray said it can be read aloud to younger children as well.
“I think the 26 colorful illustrations will capture their attention. To have an adult read the words to them they can be engaged with the adult and the alphabet,” she said. “Illustrator Stephanie Rogers Carter drew the colorful illustrations. She did a fantastic job illustrating many of the events that people around the world were experiencing. The use of diverse characters helps to show how the pandemic impacted people of all ethnicities.”
Each page of the book features words associated with the pandemic that correspond to each letter of the alphabet. The aim is to get readers to learn the words and their meaning.
“On the page with the alphabet ‘S,’ it talks about social distancing and there is an illustration showing people social distancing. Or kids may hear people talking about boosting the immune system and the ‘I’ page of the book explains the immune system and how it works. It breaks down some of the words associated with the pandemic for a better understanding,” Thompson-Gray explained. “I feel the book has a lot, including things related to science.”
She pointed out that she shied away from the dark side of COVID-19 “because I didn’t want that black cloud to be a part of my book. I wanted students to understand the importance of remote learning, social distancing and wearing masks without that black cloud.”
Thompson-Gray, who is the assistant principal of MacArthur Middle School in Illinois, said she began writing the book when her school was shut down in March. In response to her heartbreak of not seeing her students in person during the pandemic and worrying about them, she wrote the “ABCs of Covid-19” to help her students and other children understand what was happening in the world.
“I took what I was feeling and put into a book, my first book,” she said. “It took about five months for the entire process, but the actual manuscript was completed and edited in about one week.”
Thompson-Gray is proud of her family history, so she decided to include a little of that history in the book..
‘I named the buildings in the book after some of my family members to pay homage to them. In the back of the book, I explain the connection to the names of the buildings,” she explained.
She advises first-time writers to put their ideas on papers.
“Put your ideas in print. When an idea comes to you, get it down. I’ve written ideas on the back of a receipt when I was out. Get the first draft on paper and then work on making it better,” she explained.
Thompson-Gray, who graduated from Alabama State in 1995 with a B.S. in Elementary Education, said she knew she wanted to be a Hornet at an early age.
“I have a family connection with the University. My aunt went to ASU, and I used to visit her when I was in high school. I would go to homecomings, and I attended her graduation. I liked the feel of ASU and decided I would become a Hornet. My daughter has followed in my footsteps. She is a senior and will graduate May 2021.”
The “ABCs of Covid-19” can be purchased at tashathompsongray.com, Amazon, Books-A-Million, and Barnes and Noble.