The Covid-19 pandemic has given children a window into a world they had never seen before or been exposed to.
With very few resources available, a south London primary school teacher decided to put pen to paper and create a book to help children to understand the pandemic.
Banji Alexander started on his book Lockdown Looms: Reggie’s Birthday Party, in December 2020, during the second lockdown.
“The book was written at the time to help alleviate some of the fears my Year 3 class were having during the pandemic and explain some of the new norms at the time,” Alexander told LondonWorld.
“There wasn’t a book I could use to walk my learners through the pandemic and the world around us which was changing quite rapidly so there are really heavy topics which I’ve covered in the book but from a child’s perspective.”
Lockdown Looms: Reggie’s Birthday Party tells the story of a seven-year-old boy who is fed up with home schooling and online learning, and is looking forward to celebrating his eighth birthday with family and friends once the lockdown comes to an end.
“But unfortunately the unpredictable nature of lockdown means that new Covid restrictions may hinder his birthday plans and that’s where the story starts,” Alexander explains.
The picture book covers topics such as masks, social distancing, home schooling, vaccinations, bereavements, chaotic supermarket scenes and food shortages.
The book also tries to promote vaccination uptake in the BAME community.
“Promoting vaccinations is one aspect of the book,” said Alexander.
“There were concerns about the vaccine in some communities within the BAME umbrella.
“It’s not necessarily just about vaccines, it’s about addressing things that young children were very apprehensive about.”
Representation and inclusivity is also a hugely important aspect of the book.
“I worked with two illustrators on this book and I wanted it to be an inclusive book especially for children who couldn’t access the language like EAL and SEN children so I wanted every page to be illustrated,” Alexander continued.
“There is also a great cast of characters which hopefully represents all of the children that I’ve come across in London.
“The protagonist in the book Reggie, he’s from a multicultural family, his Mum is white Italian and his dad is black British.
“His dad in the book is a scientist and it was important for me to give his dad a job such as a scientist, as being a teacher you see that children look up to the adults in their lives.
“If children can see that Reggie’s dad is a scientist in this book, then perhaps one day I can grow up and be a scientist because he looks like me and comes from my background.
“Representation in books is vital to amplify the voices of everyone’s experiences.”
Alexander has been widely praised for his debut children’s book and even received a letter from the mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
Mr Khan thanked Alexander for his support to his Year 3 class throughout the pandemic and for going “above and beyond” to show care and commitment to his students.
Parents and teachers can order a copy of Lockdown Looms: Reggie’s Birthday Party on Alexander’s website.