Children’s author, publisher make Covid-19-awareness book available for free

17th April 2020 By: Donna Slater - Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer

As part of the response to fight the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business senior lecturer Athol Williams and his artist wife Taryn Lock have produced the seventh book in their acclaimed Oaky children’s picture books series with a focus on the virus.

Publisher of the Oaky series, Theart Press, has made this book available at no cost and it can be downloaded from its website, or from the Oaky Facebook page.

As with the other Oaky books, the new book has a set of questions at the back that parents can discuss with their children. It is available in English and there are plans to translate it into other South African languages.

The award-winning author says the book is “extra special” because it contributes to South Africa’s national response to fight the virus.

In addition to the Oaky series, Williams is also the author of tween novel A Girl Called H and his inspirational autobiography, Pushing Boulders, which tells the story of how, having grown up on the Cape Flats, he became the first person globally to earn five master’s degrees from five of the world’s top universities including Harvard and Oxford.

The book is titled Oaky and the Virus and in it, Oaky and his sister Oaket discuss the reasons for staying home during the lockdown and how they can have fun while doing so. It also includes the Oaky virus song which children can sing while washing their hands.

Lock explains why she enjoyed illustrating this book. “It is a fun story and it is rewarding knowing that it will help children understand the lockdown and what they can do to stay safe.”

It is Willams' hope that parents or guardians use this opportunity to engage with children around matters relating to the virus and help ensure that children are reading accurately and doing so with comprehension.

The first six Oaky books have been popular with children under the age of 10. Theart Press has distributed over 165 000 Oaky books, through the nongovernmental organisation Read to Rise, which is run by Lock, to children in under-resourced communities in South Africa. Read to Rise visits primary school classrooms to create excitement about reading and distributes the Oaky books.

Read to Rise currently has a campaign to raise funds for care packs for 20 000 children in Mitchells Plain and Soweto. Each pack will include an Oaky and the Virus book, Oaky activity books, a bar of soap, cloth mask, juice and packet of crisps. “Once the lockdown is lifted, we will visit schools to hand out the packs and conduct our school literacy programmes,” notes Lock.

Care packs can also be sponsored, at R100 each.