When Port Washingtonians Lauren and Adam Block first settled in to the new normal of the coronavirus, sticking to home as much as possible, they were spending a lot of time reading to their kids, twins Elise and Brandon, 7, and Jordan, 5.
“I couldn’t help noticing there was nothing to read them to explain what was going on in their lives right now,” said Adam, 42, an economist and assistant professor of public health at New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York. “I mean, I love reading them books about dinosaurs, but it doesn’t have much relevance.”
Lauren, 39, is a primary care physician and an associate professor at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, so the couple had plenty of insight and expertise to throw at the problem.
The pair acted quickly and in May put out their first book, “Kelly Stays Home,” an explainer for elementary school-aged kids (and their parents) about what is happening with COVID-19, and why. It quickly found an audience, with more than 500 physical copies sold and more than 14,000 free downloads of the PDF distributed.
Now, feeding off that momentum, the pair have launched their second title with illustrator Alex Brissenden, “Kelly Goes Back to School.”
The 32-page, brightly colored book features parents explaining to their children what’s going on as they contemplate a pending return to school. It covers masking, social distancing, new rules on sharing and eating, recess, discussion of how they can safely visit with grandparents, and a surprising amount about the science of the illness and avoiding it.
Expressions like cohorting, antibodies, viral transmission, public health, vaccines, and fomites (surfaces or objects that can, but generally do not, spread the virus) are explained. In addition, the way the virus is transmitted and the reasons for each precaution are laid out, and the kids’ fears are dispelled.
Because the couple was working on the book before Port Washington and other districts announced their reopening plans, “Kelly Goes Back to School” is premised on a sort of middle-of-the road plan for the kids in the story to return to school: the elementary school has each group of kids going to the classroom two days a week and working from home the rest.
It’s an odd and ironic twist that this is pretty much the plan Port Washington adopted last week after first promising five-days-a-week in-person learning for elementary school kids. While that scenario worked for the book, it does not work for the Blocks and their kids, and Monday the couple was protesting the change at a large rally at the district’s high school, from which they both graduated.
“We can get back to school safely, five days a week” Lauren Block told The Point before addressing the crowd via bullhorn Monday afternoon. She cited adherence to mask discipline and educating teachers on how to keep virus spread at bay as keys to a successful return and pointed out that the American Association of Pediatrics has said schools should be reopened as soon as it is viable.