As part of its efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic and in keeping with its 13- year history of bringing diverse disciplines together to tackle global health issues, the Emory Global Health Institute (EGHI) launched a COVID-19 Children’s ebook Competition on April 14. Inspired by questions his grandchildren were asking him, Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, Vice President for Global Health at Emory, thought EGHI could meet a growing need by providing children with answers about the pandemic.
The purpose of the competition was to identify books that could help explain the pandemic and the changing behaviors that have come with it to 6-9-year-old children. While EGHI marketed the competition widely, it never expected that 486 participants would register and that 260 of those would submit books.
“We received an unexpected but terrific response to the competition. Not only did we receive 260 book submissions, but these books came from authors living as close as Decatur, GA to as far away as Australia and South Africa. We were also pleased to have established authors and illustrators submit books along with first-time authors and illustrators, including some authors who are still children themselves,” Koplan says.
EGHI recruited 70 judges with backgrounds in medicine, public health, education, publishing, and the arts to review the ebook submissions. Three judges independently reviewed each book using criteria provided by EGHI. Because there were so many high-quality submissions, EGHI added four $1,000 honorable mention prizes to the winning $10,000 first-place award that was publicized in the competition announcement.
Beth Bacon and Kary Lee, both from the Seattle area, wrote and illustrated the winning book entitled COVID-19 Helpers, which tells the story of how everyone, including children, can help in the fight against COVID-19. Bacon is the author of four children’s books and Lee has illustrated five other books, however, this is the first time that they have had to develop the story and illustrations for a book in such a short period of time.
“Normally, it takes me at least six months to create the art for a picture book. With this book, I had 10 days. I wasn’t sure this would be possible, but after reading Beth’s manuscript, I fell in love with the story. I had to try,” Lee says.
While Lee’s and Bacon’s efforts paid off with their winning entry, they both say the experience of developing the ideas for the book and producing it was rewarding in and of itself.
“For me, the whole process was a joy. I love making children’s books, and this project combines four things I truly value: health, education, reading, and art. It’s also very rewarding to see a book develop and change through collaboration with a creative partner,” says Bacon.
Lee says the most rewarding aspect of the competition for her was the “the opportunity to create a tool for kids through storytelling” while working with a great partner and having their vision recognized by EGHI.
Numerous authors who submitted books echoed this sentiment as well as discussed how working on their book gave them an outlet to try and help in the fight against COVID-19 beyond washing their hands and practicing social distancing.
You can access all of the Emory Global Health Institute’s winning and honorable mention COVID-19 Children’s books here and learn more about them in the sidebar to this story.