Coronavirus Educational Coloring Book From St. Jude

"We know sometimes that medical things like diagnoses are difficult to understand because they're under the surface or they're very small and not something we can see,"said Rachel Schmelzer, child life specialist at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital."So coming up with a visual for it gives children a reference. It makes the information a little bit more digestible."

According to USA Today, that's the idea behind "Learn About the Coronavirus," a coloring book created by St. Jude to help the hospital's patients and children in general understand the virus and its associated health problems.

St. Jude psychologists and "child life" specialists have long developed illustrated brochures, activity books and comic book-like resources for patients and parents, but – in a testimony to the unparalleled impact of the coronavirus – a coloring book is something new.

"This is the first coloring book we've produced specifically in-house,"Schmelzer said.  

Over 10 illustrated pages that depict a boy, a girl, a parent, a nurse and the sometimes anthropomorphized virus itself,the coloring book provides basic instruction("Did you know that when you wash your hands germs like coronavirus go away?") and bits of information ("Coronavirus is a big word, but did you know that 'corona' means crown? When you look at coronavirus under a microscope, a part of the virus looks like a crown").

"The main focus is to keep in mind the audience for the piece," said Emily VanGilder, 27, a graphic designer in the St. Jude biomedical communications department, who drew and designed the coloring book, which isaimed at ages 5-9.

"It was a challenge," she said. "I didn't want to make him (the coloring book virus) too scary ... I tried to go for a little more mischievous look, rather than make him a villain." 

Schmelzer and Dr. Kristin Canavera, a St. Jude psychologist, began planning and writing the text for the coloring book March 16, and it was in print by the end of the week.

Initially, 750 copies were printed, in English, Spanish and Arabic, for distribution on the St. Jude campus and at Target House and Ronald McDonald House, the free "home-away-from-home" living facilities for patients and families.

Nevertheless, the coloring book is "a resource we produced for everyone," said Marvin Stockwell, St. Jude director of media relations.It can be downloaded for print-out through the St. Jude "Together" website at

In fact, the St. Jude team was so pleased with the coloring book that a sequel, so to speak, was developed in its wake. Published Monday and also available at the "Together" website, "Learn About Coronavirus and COVID-19" is an activity book aimed at "tweens" (ages 10-13, more or less) that includes crossword puzzles, word searches and information that is useful for – as the saying goes – kids of all ages.

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