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Tales to help children cope with the outbreak

By Xu Haoyu | China Daily | Updated: 2020-03-17 08:40
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Li Rui, a presenter at Hunan Satellite TV, writes children's stories at home promoting knowledge about epidemic prevention measures that will be broadcast through Chinese podcast app, Himalaya.[Photo provided to China Daily]

While adults are preoccupied by the fear of the novel coronavirus outbreak, what are the children thinking?

The loneliness of being apart from friends and the frustration of being penned up at home can be difficult to deal with. The subject is being tackled by media personalities and outlets.

"Are you feeling bored staying at home these days? Did your parents say that they would take you traveling but couldn't deliver on their promise? Please don't be mad at them, because there is a big evil outside!" Li Rui, 47, the presenter at Hunan Satellite TV, says in a relaxing tone in the audio book he created on Chinese podcast app Himalaya.

"Why do we call the virus the evil king? Because this guy wears a crown, is always bragging that he's the biggest and toughest, and impacts everyone, even kids," he explains to the children in his program.

Since 2013, Li has hosted six seasons of a parent-children interaction reality TV show that invites celebrities to bring their kids to enjoy country life, and he plays the role of the head of the village they live in.

"As the 'village head', I want to create some interesting stories about the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus, to both entertain and educate them," he says.

Li was inspired by books and films, especially The Decameron and Life Is Beautiful, that depict disastrous events in history. He is especially touched by the film Life Is Beautiful, specifically the part when the father tells the son that the sufferings and cruelty of a Nazi concentration camp were just a game, and the final reward for overcoming the loneliness, hunger and fear is a real tank.

Li wishes to assign tasks to children through audio stories he created on Himalaya, such as washing hands frequently and staying safely at home, that will eventually win back the freedom to embrace nature outdoors without a mask or a worried heart.

He writes stories at home, mostly at night when everyone else in the family is asleep. He usually works until two or three in the morning.

Li writes the stories based on the touching moments of people fighting the virus, and the knowledge about disease control and prevention that needs to be shared.

Zhong Nanshan, 84, a respiratory doctor who was involved in fighting SARS and is now fighting coronavirus at the frontline, is called "Doctor Shanshan" in his story. Bat, the suspected infectious host, is described as the victim caught and eaten by Mr Silly. The virus is personified as the evil king who wants to harm humans, while masks and alcohol-based sanitizers become the magic weapon to fight against the evil.

"Every time I finish a draft, I will read it to my 12-year-old daughter. I will publish the story if she laughs, or rewrite it if she doesn't," Li says.

The audio book has had more than 59 million clicks by March 6.

As the virus prevention work is strengthened and the resumption of work and study in some areas is postponed, people are spending much more time online. Podcast apps in China have seized the opportunity and launched virus-related content, highlighting the importance of disease prevention and control.

Apart from inviting celebrities like Li to "talk" with users, Himalaya also set up an online medical and psychological counseling service. Together with mainstream media organizations CCTV News, People's Daily and Guangming Daily, it broadcasts related news every day.

Recently on the platform, the live newsroom of CCTV has got around 90 million clicks, and virus-related content totaled more than 100 million views early last month.

Another app named Qingting FM is also broadcasting professional advice for disease control and prevention. The audio guideline has collected around 5 million clicks.

This January, Lizhi became the first Chinese podcast app to be listed on Nasdaq, the US electronic share-trading marketplace. Different from Himalaya and Qingting FM, which are mainly serving professionally generated content, Lizhi is a platform driven by user generated content.

In reaction to the coronavirus outbreak, Lizhi set up a special section named "We Are Fighting the Virus Together" on its front page on Jan 28. It has organized users to produce the audio version of diaries of people who are fighting the virus in Wuhan, or of those in hospital wards. Through the diaries, users are able to learn more about the medical workers, their mission to heal the sick, and their courage in saving lives at the front line.

A topic has also been set on Lizhi, inviting users to talk about the first thing they want to do after epidemic ends. Many came up with the simple requests, although they seem hard to achieve at present.

There are voices saying that they want to go home; take off their mask; go off on a trip; walk for a while and greet strangers passing by; get on a crowded bus; visit the barbecue restaurant near their home and enjoy a beer with friends.

Just as renowned painter, calligrapher and essayist Chen Jiru from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) wrote, "With no illness inside the body, no worry inside the heart, even the singing of a spring bird sounds the most melodious".


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