Port doctor, professor author children’s book on virus

The children's book "Kelly Stays Home," authored by Port Washington residents Dr. Lauren and Adam Block, seeks to inform children on the causes and effects of the coronavirus. (Cover art by Alex Crissenden)

A Port Washington doctor and a health economist have created a book that explains the causes and effects of the coronavirus for the youngest people it affects.

Dr. Lauren Block, a primary care physician and associate professor at Northwell Health’s Zucker School of Medicine, and her husband, Adam Block, Ph.D., a health care economist and assistant professor of public health at New York Medical College, are the authors of “Kelly Stays Home,” a book that describes the virus, social distancing and preventative measures, to children.

Lauren Block said that part of the inspiration for the book came from seeing how the new normal affected the couple’s three children, twins Elise and Brandon, 7, and Jordan, 5.

“We saw our kids’ lives really turned upside down by coronavirus, and very quickly they went from going to school and going to playdates and going to activities to really being stuck at home,” Block said. “Their lives were really changed profoundly, and naturally they had a bunch of questions about why they couldn’t see their friends anymore, why they couldn’t go to school in the school building anymore, and we wanted to provide them answers in a way that made sense to them and brought out the science behind the virus, as well as the rules and why we’re doing the things we’re doing.”

She added that their two oldest children are interested in math and science, and while they understood some of the more advanced scientific concepts, the first draft of “Kelly Stays Home” was “a bit too much” for their youngest. That finding resulted in the idea to publish two different editions of the book: one for older kids, and another for little ones.

“We wanted to provide the younger kids, and our little one in particular, with the same concepts and illustrations, but with fewer words and a little bit lower-key language so that he could understand and follow along,” Block said.

The book features 8-year-old “junior scientist” Kelly, who learns from her mother, a health care worker, about all the ways the virus is affecting the world she knows, from not being able to visit her grandparents, to efforts to create a vaccine, to ways to help those in need during the pandemic.

Detailed illustrations for concepts like social distancing, germs and vaccines were created by United Kingdom-based artist Alex Brissenden, whom the Blocks met through a Facebook group for children’s book illustrators.

“We wanted someone who would be quick, because time is of the essence, and communicative, and really bring some of these scientific principles to life in ways that both kids and parents could relate to and hopefully learn from,”┬áBlock said. “Alex had done work illustrating scientific concepts like nutrition and things for public health in the past, so we thought she would do a great job and she did.”

The Blocks self-published the story over the course of a month, nad made the completed books available for free in PDF form on the website kellystayshome.com, where they say they have been downloaded nearly 10,000 times. In addition to the PDFs, e-Book versions of “Kelly Stays Home” are available from Apple Books, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords, and a paperback edition is available on Amazon.

“Our goal was to make this a free resource for the community,” Block said. “So many people in the New York area have been affected by the pandemic, and most of us have friends and loved ones and colleagues who have family members get really sick or even die. Our goal was to make this a free resource, especially for families with parents as health care workers or even front-line responders, to help kids understand what their family members are doing and how they’re protecting themselves, going to work, in the midst of this pandemic.”

Block adds that feedback has been so positive that Kelly’s adventures in science may continue in a future work.

“We recognize that this is an evolving situation, and our plan is certainly to update as the next chapter rolls around for all of us,” Block said. “We hope that this will be the first in more books to come to follow Kelly as she ventures out into the world in a controlled and planned way, as we all figure out how the reopening process starts to happen in the next few months or even year.”




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