1 June 2020 — With children spending large portions of the day at home due to COVID-19, the United Nations is helping families use the opportunity to teach young people about global challenges, including not only the health pandemic but also poverty, hunger and climate change.
Drawing on the power of storytelling to foster positive social change, a plethora of books, board games and public service ads developed by the UN are teaching children how to stay healthy and safe, support others during the crisis, and play a role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
“From My Window: Children at Home During COVID-19”, a new book released by United Nations Publications, an office in the Department of Global Communications, looks at the lives of housebound children from around the world through their own perspective.
Illustrated and written by Xue Bai, a UN intern, the book explores the children’s shared experience of life away from school and friends, from wondering about the people they know and communities who are sick and in need of help, to discovering what can be learned during the lockdown. Children are taught the importance of staying positive, spreading kindness and supporting others. (It’s available as a free download or for purchase in print at the UN Shop.)
Bringing the same message, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Foundation have partnered with Hollywood studio Illumination to launch a Public Service Announcement (PSA) that reinforces safe and healthy practices during these challenging times.
The kids-friendly PSA, which featuring Illumination’s globally beloved Gru and the Minions, focuses on lifesaving behaviors to help mitigate the impacts of COVID-19, such as physical distancing, being active at home and good to each other.
"As the world continues to grapple with the challenges of COVID-19, one of our most powerful weapons is kindness," said Elizabeth Cousens, President & CEO of the United Nations Foundation.
Narrated by Academy Award and Emmy Award nominee Steve Carrell, who voices the character Gru in the Despicable Me series of 3D comedy films, the PSA will be localized into multiple languages including Spanish, French, Portuguese and Arabic, among others.
Learning about global issues
To educate children about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ways they can help achieve them by the 2030 target date, the UN Regional Information Centre in Brussels, has created the “Go Goals!” board game, in partnership with the artist Yacine Ait Kaci (YAK), creator of Elyx.
“It was great fun,” said Ms. Shinobu Shibata, who lives in a suburban city of Hachioji, Tokyo, reflecting how her family enjoyed the ‘Go Goals,’ which is available in Japanese and 20 other languages. “Our fifteen-year-old son, Yusei, and seventeen-year-old daughter, Manao, were really into the game. I also fell in love with the game because we can share the time together while also broadening our global perspectives and think about how we should act.”
Thomas & Friends Life Lessons, a partnership of Thomas & Friends children’s television series and the UN, explores essential skills that can enrich critical thinking through meaningful conversations between children and parents on the SDGs. with the United Nations to teach Goals! We hope to inspire the generation
Teaming up with Sanrio, the United Nations is also promoting the SDGs through Hello Kitty’s YouTube channel. The #HelloGlobalGoals video series features six of the 17 Goals: Goal 3 on good health and well-being, Goal 4 on quality education, Goal 5 on gender equality, Goal 11 on sustainable cities and communities, Goal 13 on climate action, and Goal 14 on life below water.
The SDG Book Club selects new books each month in all the UN’s six official languages – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish – to encourage children ages 6-12 to engage with the Goals. The Club runs a storytime series online, where authors read their works covering several SDGs and adventures from around the world.
In “Frieda makes a difference” , young readers learn that “everyone must work together to make the world much better for all”.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) offers important lessons about healthy diets, climate action and much more through Building the #ZeroHunger Generation, a resource portal for teachers and parents in preparing classes on important global issues at the core of FAO’s work.
The #ReadtheWorld initiative, a collaboration between the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the International Publishers Association and WHO, features popular children’s authors reading extracts of their books to millions of children and young people currently living in isolation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The initiative kicked off on 2 April, International Children’s Book Day, with a reading by Italian author Elisabetta Dami, creator of Geronimo Stilton.
Questions about the Pandemic
The scale and impact of the coronavirus pandemic is difficult for adults to wrap their minds around, much less children. But young people still have questions, and they are looking to adults to help them understand what is happening.
“My Hero is You offers a way for children and parents to together think about the questions the pandemic raises. Designed to be read by a parent, caregiver or teacher alongside a child or a small group of children, the story was shaped by more than 1,700 children, parents, caregivers and teachers worldwide who shared how they are coping with the impact of COVID-19.
The project was developed by the WHO’s Inter-Agency Standing Committee Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings, and supported by global, regional and country based experts, in addition to parents, caregivers, teachers and children in 104 countries.
Protecting children from cybercrime
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warns that as children spend more time online, they are at greater risk of falling prey to cybercrimes. The Online Zoo picture book, translated into several UN languages, encourages children with positive messages about how to deal with the different challenges they face online. A safer Internet is one of the goals of UNODC's work in countering cybercrime. The earlier children are educated about the benefits and challenges of the Internet, the more prepared they will be to tackle problems they may face, UNODC says.