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Local author writes picture book to help children understand why we're staying at home

Posted April 19, 2020 8:15 p.m. EDT

Courtesy: Venus Liles

In the early days of the stay-at-home order in North Carolina, Venus Liles found herself reaching for ways to explain what that meant for her daughters — ages five and two. The result is a new picture book, "Luna Stays Home," which follows the story of a young girl as she grapples with what it means to be away from friends and school and her usual life.

"Luna Stays Home" is available online through its website. A portion of all proceeds will be donated to the World Health Organization's COVID-19 Response Fund. The book also comes with a compilation of articles, podcasts and guides with more information about how to talk to children about the pandemic. I checked in with Liles, a corporate lawyer for the past decade, to learn more. Here's a Q&A.

Go Ask Mom: What's the genesis for the book? Where did the idea come from?

Venus Liles: Children’s books have always been our family’s way of explaining the world to our daughters. We reach for them when we want to explain something fun, like butterfly facts (they taste with their feet!). And again when we need to explain something difficult.

The order to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic was abrupt and unexpected for everybody…but especially for young kids, who don’t watch the news. So I searched for a book to help explain to my daughters what was going on. When I couldn’t find one, I decided to write my own.

GAM: What's helped your own children better understand what's happening now?

VL: A LOT of dialogue! Sometimes my husband and I feel like we are repeating ourselves over and over, but that seems to be what our daughters need. They respond well to constant reminders about what’s happening and what to expect both day-to-day and long term. We are as honest as we can be, considering even scientists aren’t certain what to expect in the coming months.

"Luna Stays Home" by Raleigh author Venus Liles

GAM: What kinds of conversations do you hope your book will spark between parents and kids? There are several sections where discussion really is encouraged.

VL: I hope "Luna Stays Home" will help create an environment in which children feel comfortable asking questions and talking about their feelings. I want Luna’s experience to open up space for kids and parents to talk honestly about the coronavirus, social distancing, and the other ways our lives have been impacted by this historic event. The questions in the book are meant to get kids talking to their parents (and get parents listening to their kids), so that the dialogue will continue well past the last page.

GAM: What I think is really important about the book is that, while we're in such unprecedented and scary times, it focuses on the good. That we have loved ones. That there's still chocolate ice cream. That there are helpers out there who are making a difference. Why is that such an important theme in the book?

VL: There’s a quote by Robin S. Sharma: “What you focus on grows, what you think about expands, and what you dwell upon determines your destiny.” I love that, and I think it’s important to remember now more than ever.

Young children are naturally curious and optimistic, and I wanted Luna to embody those characteristics. So, the book focuses on the good as a natural outpouring of Luna’s point of view. I hope hearing her story can help us all focus on the good a little bit more during this time.

​GAM: What's helping you keep your sanity these days?

VL: Various passion projects are helping me maintain excitement, keep my sanity, and not feel like I’m living in the movie Groundhog Day. The first of those projects, of course, was "Luna Stays Home," which I hope will help other parents’ sanity too. Now that "Luna Stays Home" is out in the world, I’m focusing inward a bit more and may try baking and gardening. I say “try” because I’ve never done either before. But then again, I had never written a children’s book before either. So I guess anything’s possible!

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