How far would you go to protect your loved ones from getting sick?

Throughout the past year, many aspects of the pandemic have presented unique challenges that have impacted our lives in a myriad of ways. One of these issues is a question parents and educators have been grappling with ever since last March: how do you explain to young children that they need to wear a mask?

After all, kids are known for many things; creativity, curiosity and assertiveness. They are not, however, known for following the rules. Whether a 5th grader refuses to wear the school uniform, or a preschooler tosses their shoes off with every opportunity, the “masks required” rule at many schools is a lot easier said than done.

That’s the dilemma Uzoma Ezekwudo intends to solve with her new book Be a Hero: Cover Your Mouth While Yawning, Sneezing, and Coughing. Inspired by her own experience working in a school, Ezekwudo knows firsthand just how fast a cold or flu can spread through a school. By mapping a virus’s spread through a classroom and the actions the students take to prevent another outbreak, Ezekwudo shows how good hygiene and protective measures can stop a virus dead in its tracks.


When the bell rings, Champion and the rest of her 3rd-grade class go out on the playground for recess. Unfortunately, they don’t end up having as much fun as they hoped; Champion’s best friend Gina is sick, and sneezes without covering her mouth. Germs fly everywhere, and by the end of the school day many of the other students catch the virus — Champion included. The following day, she stays home with her parents, and unintentionally ends up spreading the bug to them.

The experience opens Champion’s eyes to how important it is to cover your mouth and wash your hands during times of sickness. Luckily, the bug going around her school was just the regular flu. Just a few weeks later, however, the CDC broadcasts a warning about a worldwide virus outbreak.

This time, though, Champion is prepared. She’s learned the value of washing her hands, covering her mouth and keeping her distance. So she puts on a mask and sets out to teach her friends how they can keep themselves safe. Champion is determined to help her community because, as she’s come to learn herself, “stopping the spread of germs and viruses starts with me.”


During a time when the future feels uncertain, it’s no surprise that nearly everyone has struggled with heightened anxiety this past year. Children are not exempt from this stress, and those feelings of helplessness and confusion aren’t helped by their reliance on their family for protection. If their parents are feeling scared and unsure of the future, how are kids supposed to feel?

Ezekwudo’s book gives children something to cling onto; a way for them to feel that they’re helping keep their friends and family safe. By washing their hands, wearing a mask and maintaining social distance, kids can feel safer against the threat of COVID. Along with protecting themselves, children can also feel like they are working to protect their loved ones from catching the virus.

Be a Hero is a book that does far more than teach children about responsibilities during COVID. It helps children navigate these uncertain times and goes the extra mile to help them feel safe.


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Uzoma R. Ezekwudo has a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a teen, she loved telling stories and creating songs for the stories. As an adult, she loves creative writing; songs, stories, plays and poems.