In March, Lauren and Adam Block were among the millions of parents who saw in a very short time span how much their lives and the lives of their children changed.
Parents to a five-year-old and a pair of seven-year-olds, the Blocks – both of whom are doctors – wanted to help other families effectively explain why their kids were learning from home, couldn’t see their friends or visit their grandparents.
In the spring the Blocks collaborated on a children’s book, “Kelly Stays Home: The Science of Coronavirus,” that explains in a simple and straightforward way the science behind the pandemic in a way that youngsters can understand. It has reached an estimated 13,000 readers.
They have followed it up over the summer with “Kelly Goes Back to School: More Science on Coronavirus,” which delves into scientific concepts such as diagnostic and antibody testing, mask wearing, vaccine trials and contact tracing through clear language and illustrations.
“Their lives have been really upended by this pandemic. They’ve done school remotely from March until June, they weren’t able to go to the camps with their friends, their family,” explained Lauren Block, an associate professor at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and an internist, about why they wrote the books. “They don’t know what school will be like in September so they had a lot of questions, how the virus spreads, what the symptoms are.”
The books also explores why the virus spreads so easily, why handwashing and social distancing is important and many other questions that the Blocks’ own children had.
Adam Block, an assistant professor of public health at New York Medical College School of Health Sciences and Practice in Valhalla, said that the books are presented to attract young children, but older kids and parents should be able to find it useful as well.
He said that for younger children, they have spent their pre-school years learning how to socialize, to share with their peers and how to be with adults that are not their parents. There is also the lack of positive peer pressure. The pandemic has created a massive disruption in that maturation process.
“So this is a fundamental change to their lives that we wanted to be able to express, why this is happening from a scientific perspective,” Adam Block said.
Families must now also cope with dealing with much more uncertainty in their lives and the stresses that that can cause on a family, he said.
Longer-term negative impacts could be behavioral regression for some children, and for those families who don’t have all the resources, an increase in inequity, whether that be proper child care or tutors. For those families lucky enough to have a parent at home, because they have one spouse not working, or because one parent’s work schedule allows them to help out during remote learning sessions.
“That is something we’re sensitive to as a two-income family,” Lauren Block said. “It has to be balanced between your careers and the everyday needs of your kids and their education.”
When there are in-person classes, Adam Block said he is less concerned about children forgetting about social distancing, especially the younger students who may not have seen their friends in a long time.
“I don’t think they’re going to go to school and just go crazy,” he said. “I think they are going to be supported by teachers that give them relatively strict guidelines on what they can do. So I’m certainly optimistic that it’s going to work in a classroom environment.”
A free PDF of Kelly Goes Back to School: More Science on Coronavirus” can be downloaded at www.kellystayshome.com. It’s also available for purchase on Amazon.com.