By Idowu Layo
Publisher Rasmed Publications Limited
Titles Nursery Corona Tales
Bayo’s Weekend Trip
Halima Saves Her Village
Date of Publication May 2020
Even though the developmental, psycho-social and educational benefits of reading to children are well documented, the potential use of children literature as a tool to enhance health literacy in children has not been well explored. Traditionally, attempts at health education for children have emphasized memorization of science-based facts and societal prescripts. However, educational experts have confirmed that this approach has not been particularly successful. Rather, it is believed that children’s literature can be a better useful teaching tool for teaching children about health and can also open the door to discussion of health-related issues with children. In addition, children’s literature may have an important role in health education and in potentially influencing health behaviors in children. The power of a good novel, well-written poetry, or creative biography could reach an adolescent struggling with critical health-impacting decisions more effectively than a textbook. With novels in particular, it is harder for students to distance themselves from health issues and behaviors exemplified through a compelling story and well-developed characters.
In line with the above, Dr Wale Okediran is not new to the use of Children’s Literature as a tool for health education. His 1998 children’s novel; The Rescue Of Uncle Babs published by McMillan Publishers (Winner of the 1999 ANA/Matatu Prize for Children’s Literature) was written adolescent children on the dangers of drug abuse. Again, in 2001, Okediran was commissioned by Longman PLC to write a series of novelettes for school children on the HIV/AIDS scourge.
This time around, the author decided to shift his focus to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Even though a lot of ‘palliatives’ have been put in place to ameliorate the devastating effects of the pandemic, most of them which expectedly are in the forms of food items and cash are mainly directed at adults. Even though the children by extension would also benefit from the largesse, it is also believed that they also need some form of education on the pandemic as well as something to keep them occupied especially during the period of the lockdown. In doing this, Okediran decided to write a book each for the Nursery, Primary and Secondary school age groups.
In Nursery Corona Tales, the author used the illustrated booklet with its childlike simplicity and bright colors to captivate nursery school children and at the same time, educate them on the Coronavirus. In doing this, Okediran showed that it’s never too early for children to think about health issues. This well illustrated book with realistic messages as well asnursery rhymes set in familiar tunes is a perfect vehicle for communicating the COVID-19 pandemic to nursery school children.
The second book which targeted Primary School Children; Bayo’s Weekend Trip was about the Adisas, a middle-class family who did all they could to put in place all the necessary precautions against the spread of the COVID-19 infection. However, their 10 –year old son, Bayo was requested to accompany his aunt to Lagos to welcome a relative who had just returned from abroad. Little did the Adisas know that the relative had already been infected with the virus. The family therefore had to go through the ordeal of going for tests as well as self-isolation in an effort to fight a disease that presently had no cure.
For the secondary school students, Wale Okediran used the story of eighteen- year old Halima in Halima Saves Her Village to educate them on the issue of the COVID-19 pandemic. Halima who was visiting her grandmother got trapped in the village by the COVID-19 lockdown. She decided to keep herself busy by educating the villagers on the prevention of the spread of the Coronavirus. It was in the process of this very important but difficult task that she stumbled on Alhaji Kokoma, a rich but arrogant businessman who did not believe that the Coronavirus pandemic was real. Unfortunately, Alhaji Kokoma did not know that he had already been infected by the virus. It was Halima’s timely intervention that saved her village from what could have been a terrible calamity.
Written in simple and easily accessible language suitable to the designated age groups, these books apart from training children to fully understand in detail, everything about the current pandemic, the well- illustrated books are also entertaining. Since books have long been recognized as resources for health literacy and healing, children who may be too young to have had any prior knowledge of, or experience with, a particular health issue, can vicariously experience the issue and empathize with those who have it, through reading these well written fictional works.
Although written in English, the Publisher has already commenced the preparation of the versions of the books in the major Nigerian indigenous languages. With this, it is expected that the messages in the books will reach as many Nigerian children as possible in both English and local languages.
While the books will soon be available in many major bookshops in the country, the books can also be ordered via the Publisher’s websites; www.rasmedpublications.com and www.buybooks.ngor through phone numbers +234 9060004528, +234 8174615806 and +234 8079833768.
Those who might prefer the electronic copies of the books should visit Okada Books at okadabooks.com/user/rasmed as well as Amazon.