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E-books help children with emotions

Everyone has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in one way or another.

For psychologist Garth Newman from Brackenfell Psychology who has a special interest in working with children and adolescents, one change was adapting his practice to offer online therapy.

But it was another idea born in lockdown, he says, the results of which were “simply astounding”.

In May Newman introduced a free and shareable e-book, Super 3 and the Scary Invisible Monster, on Facebook to help parents and caregivers explain Covid-19 and the lockdown to children.

Newman says the idea originated mainly from his practice. “Working with children I could tell their anxiety was through the roof. Not being able to do play therapy with them due to lockdown, I decided to try and reach them in another way.”

He and his wife, Yumna Sadan, brainstormed and the ‘‘Super 3’’ came to life with illustrations done by Sadan.

The story is based on three friends whose favourite game is playing superheroes. The friends hear their school must close because of ‘‘a giant monster called Coronavirus, secret identity Covid-19, attacking the entire world.”

They learn how the virus spread by invisible droplets and how it can be prevented. They experience different emotions – “sadness and frustration that turn to anger”. Ultimately, they reimagine their superpowers to concentrate on what they could do rather than what they couldn’t. Capes are removed “as real superheroes wear masks instead”.

Newman says they received a phenomenal response to the first book which has reached thousands within the first two days on Facebook.

“We knew a second would be on the cards soon.”

The sequel, Super 3 and the Worry Worm, was released on 26 May ‘‘hoping it will help parents and children deal with the scary and inevitable return to school, and anxiety in general.’’

Soon after this Newman was approached by Dr Anuscha Lachman, a child psychiatrist who shared the books with her colleagues in America. “One of them, a professor at Yale, offered to translate it into Spanish. At about the same time we were approached by an organisation called Shine Literacy, who asked to print copies of the second book to distribute as part of a resource pack to Grade 2s and 3s across seven schools.”

Claudia Stanfield from Shine Literacy says the book was chosen because it addresses the stresses children face as they return to school. “During these times children are faced with overwhelming uncertainty because they have been exposed to little snippets of this harsh, new reality. The key to reducing this anxiety is being able to provide them with reassurance that they will be okay. The Super 3 and their journey does exactly that.”

The “Worry Worm” has also been translated into Zulu by iThemba Projects in Kwazulu-Natal and Newman says they’ve recently been asked about a possible Portuguese version.

On 19 June Newman completed the trilogy when he shared Super 3 and the Gloomy Cloud which deals with feelings of loss and sadness. He says he thinks the reason for the book’s success is mostly good timing and the clear need for something to help children navigate these uncertain times.

“We are still surprised by the reaction. Every time we see our stories being shared, we feel extremely proud that we’ve been able to make a difference in some way.”

But it is not the end yet. Newman says they are in the process of writing a fourth part to the Super 3 series.

“We’ve also written a children’s chapter book which we plan to self-publish in the next few months.”

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