Oaky and Oaket teach children about virus

Athol Williams, author of the Oaky series, and his wife Taryn Lock, who illustrates the book.

A Cape Town author and philanthropist has written a children’s book to help them
better understand the national Covid-19 lockdown.

Author of the Oaky series Athol Williams, from Century City, and his wife, illustrator Taryn Lock, put their heads together to help many parents and children struggling to understand why they need to stay at home.

In the last week their free digital publication of Oaky and the Virus and the Oaky Virus Song, sung by Ielmah Bardien, 6, from Pelican Park, have gone viral as it is being shared on WhatsApp and other social media.

“Since children love Oaky we thought that perhaps they would listen to him,” said Mr Williams.

Read to Rise, a literacy organisation which reads to children, distributes the Oaky series for free to pupils in Mitchell’s Plain, where Mr Williams is originally from, and pupils in Soweto.

The couple co-founded and co-directs the organisation, which offers fun, interactive class programmes for pupils to create a generation of readers.

Mr Williams and Read to Rise also hosted the first Cape Flats Book Festival in Mitchell’s Plain last year.

Their seventh book in the series tells the story of Oaky and his sister Oaket, who have to stay indoors because a “bad virus came to town”.

It took Mr Williams a day to write the story and Ms Lock four 10-hour days to draw Oaky and style Oaket, who makes her debut.

“We worked on the book non-stop over Easter,” Mr Williams said.

The book includes a set of questions, which gives parents an opportunity to discuss the issues with their child.

Mr Williams had heard from parents and teachers that children were struggling to understand the lockdown. “Also many parents
were not engaging with their children about the virus.”

He said they would like the free book to be passed on. “It is our contribution to both literacy and the fight against the coronavirus. Children must sing the song while washing their hands and parents must discuss the questions with their children,” he said.

“This book is dedicated to all health care and emergency workers around the world fighting the coronavirus.”

In a WhatsApp voice note to the Southern Mail, Ielmah said: “I love singing. Oaky makes me happy. I love Oaky”.

For more information or for a free digital copy, email theartpressbooks@gmail.com; download the PDF at www.theartpressbooks.com; or to listen to the Oaky Virus Song go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDAGr7FERjY.

The literacy organisation is also raising funds for care packs for 20 000 children in Mitchell’s Plain and Soweto. If you would like to donate, visit https://tinyurl.com/ybl64a8y