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Michigan author writes children’s books explaining COVID-19

Children's book to explain COVID
Published: Dec. 4, 2020 at 5:50 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Coronavirus restrictions and all the changes they bring can be hard to understand, especially for children.

That’s why Michigan-native author Terry Shepherd is using his gift of words to create books with fun characters to help kids understand a little bit more about the pandemic and COVID-19 restrictions.

Terry is from Michigan, but now lives in florida.

He tells News 10 that as COVID-19 continues to become a household word, he wrote “Juliette and the Mystery Bug, as well as Juliette and the Masked Hero, as ways to help children learn how to protect themselves against illnesses.

And for him, this book was inspired by his own grandchildren, Hudson and Juliette, who struggled with understanding coronavirus restrictions.

I started to get questions from my grandkids, about the pandemic, I did what everybody else did, I went and looked on Amazon, I looked into bookstores to see what was out there,” said Terry. “There wasn’t anything that specifically address these concerns so in April of this year, I wrote the Mystery Bug.

The Mystery Bug follows the story of Hudson who isn’t feeling well and has to go to the doctor.

Throughout the book his sister, Juliette works to learn what easy habits she can do to stay safe while her brother is contagious.

“I wanted to write the story in a way that could be evergreen, because this pandemic will come and go, but every year we have flu season. And there are mystery bugs out there all the time so I wanted to create a vision of discovery for Juliette so that she could learn about how these things work, that she could actually have the experience of watching her brother go through a doctor’s visit and then learning the skills to stay safe in the time of pandemic. That’s really how the the wireframes for the story came to be.”

Just like germs, news of this book spread and eventually inspired Terry’s second book.

“There were two big things that were happening at the start of the pandemic, and that was hand washing, and sneezing. How do you keep the germs from flying from one person to another? So that was the first book and I wrote it originally just for my family. And then neighbors wanted some friends wanted, some of it became a thing, so the next question I very quickly got is, what about masks and social distancing? So that’s how Juliet and the masked hero came to be,” said Terry.

In the second book, Juliette discovers the secret power of the mask, how it works, why it’s needed and even how to make one.

“I went to the to my two favorite resources for great information. One is the Centers for Disease Control, which is where I got all the information about the technical aspects of the book. And then I wanted to write it in a way that everybody would remember it, so I went to Dr. Seuss and I wrote it in the style of Dr. Seuss poetry. "

The easy to follow story is also told through pictures created by Terry’s son-in-law.

Although Terry can see the success these books are bringing to families nationwide...it really hits home when he can his own grandkids understanding the topics.

“The real kind of magic moment for me was when the book came back, when we got our first copy of the book, and I took it to our grandkids, and my grandson was nine, read it to our granddaughter who’s four and when we got to that magic page, where they show the CDC protocols for hand washing, she started to move her hands in that direction. And the heart touching thing for us in the family is that Juliet came to us with down syndrome and all the experts say that she will learn things on the scenic route, she’ll happen in her own time in her own way,” said Terry. To see the fact that this book, and all the work we’ve done to write it actually made the connection with her, to the point where she really does know how to wash your hands safely. she does look at wearing a mask as like being a superhero, that told me that we can make a difference for kids of all ages, everywhere.”

Chase and Stella Jablonski from Mid-Michigan loved the book.

“I loved how it rhymed and how it told you to wash your hands,” said Chase and Stella.

Now author Terry Shepherd wants to reach more children like Chase and Stella with his books -that’s why he’s working with the University of Michigan School of Education to create classroom curriculums.

“The mystery bug book number one already has lesson plans, and they’re available at https://mystery-bug.com/. We’ve had questions about how else can we teach kids these things so we’ve created a page on there. You can print out PDFs, if you’re a teacher, you can get the lesson plans there. But what we hope to ultimately do is to test this in the classroom with the University of Michigan, to see if it does make a difference because if we can create this resource, which actually does change attitudes, and expands knowledge about how to stay safe, in an era of a very dangerous disease situation, that’s gonna be pretty exciting.”

Now the community can help spread these words....and not germs here in Mid-Michigan through the new terry shepherd educational initiative.

“It’s where men and women of vision who want to help to bring these books into the classroom can fund distribution of the books to all kids in a specific grade, in their particular school.”

“So what we’re finding is that we’re getting slowly but surely people that are coming to us and saying, I want to buy 50, I want to buy 100 of these books, because I want to make sure that they get into the entire third grade class in a certain School District. That would be the great outcome for us, if we could make it so that every kid everywhere was learning skills, with the magic of the poetry of Dr. Seuss, and the visuals that help them incorporate this into their life, then I think that’ll be success,” said Terry.

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