Kid Scoop’s mask-coloring pages help explain the COVID-19 virus to children

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The children are confused and afraid. So are their parents. A disease is spreading across the land. Mara Kahn, current president of the Sonoma, California, Rotary Club wanted to help stop the spread. She thought of a clever way to promote wearing protective masks — have the children decorate paper masks.

Kahn took her idea to Vicki Whiting, creator of Kid Scoop pages that appear weekly in more than 300 newspapers. Whiting and her designer, Jeff Schinkel, created a virus-education mask project for children and, as it turned out, adults as well.

Emily Charrier, the publisher of the Sonoma Index-Tribune weekly newspaper that has been publishing the Kid Scoop weekly feature since 1991, stepped up. Her newspaper devoted two facing pages with blank masks for children to color.

Then the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce posted about the mask-coloring project on its August 10 Facebook page — preparing local businesses to receive and display in their store windows the colorful protective masks the children had designed.

They all wanted kids to understand why wearing masks was so important in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kahn explains how she got the idea of children coloring masks.

“I saw how people were not wearing masks around town. I thought that this is a heartwarming way to appeal to them to comply. What better than kids reminding them. We could paper the town with this message. The kids would see their work in a business window. This empowers kids to know that they can make a difference in the community and send a message of kindness and community well-being,” she said.

Charrier, publisher of the Sonoma (California) Index-Tribune and the Petaluma (California) Argus-Courier, discussed why she devoted two full pages to the virus-education mask project.

“As a hometown newspaper, we have tried to cover every angle of COVID, to help our community stay informed and safe. Kid Scoop helps us reach our youngest readers, with fun activities packaged around important information. We plan to publish the decorated paper masks and keep reminding kids the importance of wearing a mask,” she said.

Children will also receive the Index-Tribune newspapers with the virus-education pages at Sonoma Valley schools, the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, the Boys and Girls Club and other social service agencies in town.

Whiting, a former third-grade teacher, explained the purpose of creating the virus-education mask pages.

“We wanted to help the children understand what’s going on with the masks people were wearing, what the virus actually is, and how to stay safe.” Whiting creates all the weekly pages to develop reading and math skills with colorful puzzles, games and questions to find answers in the rest of the newspaper. The pages focus on children’s natural curiosity and lead them to learn about history, geography, science and civics.

“This pandemic is unprecedented in their young lives. They needed to understand what is happening to them and around them,” she said.

The Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce will help distribute the colorful masks for display in the windows of local businesses.

Kid Scoop has also provided an assortment of graphics and text written by other kids about how to stay healthy, hand-washing tips, the importance of masks, how the virus spreads and more. On the Kid Scoop website, there’s even an original hand-washing song.

Newspapers already subscribing to the weekly Kid Scoop page received the virus-education pages at no charge from Kid Scoop. The pages are also available for order by non-subscribing newspapers as a PDF to download.

The writer of this article is Ellen Creane. She is a freelance reporter for newspapers, an ESL college instructor, a former NIE manager at three newspapers, and a marketing communications professional. To reach her for your project, email ellencreane@gmail.com. Also see her LinkedIn profile.

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