NCID head writes children’s book on Covid-19, featuring artwork by children and youth

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

But the National Centre for Infectious Diseases 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 as seen 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 a young audience aged four to 12, it was launched by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung at the Woodlands Regional Library on Monday (Dec 13).

The book, supported by the National Healthcare Group (NHG), pays tribute to the courage and selfless contributions of all front-line workers in steering Singapore into the endemic stage of Covid-19.

Prof Leo, who read the book on stage together with Mr Ong, said that the pandemic has been a confusing period for children as they tried 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 first conceived in March this year.

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

Professor Leo Yee Sin and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung reading the book at launch event at Woodlands Regional Library on Dec 13, 2021. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

As part of this exhibition in March, an artwork competition was held, with about 1,000 entries submitted by children and youth. NHG then decided to go further and compile 21 of the art pieces 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 that she was initially hesitant to write the book, as it was an experience 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 the 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 be more aware of concepts like why personal hygiene is important, and help parents communicate such ideas to their children.

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

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

A copy of the book will also be distributed to all primary schools in Singapore.

Prof Seet said: “Educating the public has been key during this pandemic, but efforts to reach out to young children have been limited, even though they have to learn to adjust to the many changes around them.

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

Mr Ong said: “This book represents our hope for our children, that we will pass this (pandemic), and will have a bright future.”