On Monday, June 29, children’s authors took to social media using the hashtags #KidlitForMasks and #MasksSaveLives to promote the importance of wearing a mask to prevent the spread of Covid-19, in an initiative started by author Margaret Peterson Haddix. Last week, Haddix became increasingly concerned as she saw the number of reported coronavirus cases growing rapidly and read an article from the University of California San Francisco stating: "The latest forecast from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation suggests that 33,000 deaths could be avoided by October 1 if 95 percent of people wore masks in public."
“My daughter is an epidemiologist,” Haddix said. “She started working on corona-related projects back in January. At that point, she was putting together fact sheets for the department where she works, but so little was known about Covid-19. As cases have skyrocketed, my husband and I have heard from her about how hard people in public health and in the medical field are working to communicate the importance of wearing a mask and how great a responsibility that is. They’re working so hard, but we all need to be part of this.”
Haddix said she feels it is especially important that children’s authors step up to help because of how the pandemic is affecting kids. “Initially,” Haddix said, “we were told that kids weren’t affected by Covid-19, but now we’re finding that they are, we just don’t fully understand the impact yet.” Haddix said that, in her community, she often sees preteens and teens without masks “because they feel invincible,” but she hopes the campaign spreads the message that “even if you don’t think Covid-19 will affect you directly, you should think of other people, like your grandparents and friends with health issues.” Haddix said she’s also concerned about what will happen with schools if the spread of coronavirus isn’t slowed. “If we can’t get a handle on this, there’s no way there will be in-person school in the fall.”
Recalling the success of Padma Venkatraman’s #AuthorsTakeAction campaign back in April and the #WhyIWearMyStar campaign, which was started by Haddix’s agent’s daughter, Abby Adams, Haddix thought, “We need a hashtag! Somebody should do that!” and then, “Well, maybe that somebody is me.” After pitching the idea to her writer’s group in the Columbus, Ohio area and hearing their support for the idea, Haddix sent an email to fellow writers and her agent, asking them to spread word and encourage others to take part. In the email, Haddix explains that, in recent weeks, she’s wished she could do something “more directly and immediately life-saving,” going on to say “it’s time for authors to use their clout and influence again en masse to encourage mask-wearing to stop the spread of coronavirus.”
In her Facebook message to fellow creators, Haddix asked that starting Monday, June 29, authors and whoever else would like to participate “post a picture of themselves wearing a mask with the hashtag #KidlitForMasks and/or #MasksSaveLives” across social media. If participants prefer not to post a picture of themselves, they can also post a picture of one of their books wearing a mask and the hashtag(s). “You can also add an explanation of why you value and encourage mask-wearing,” Haddix said.
So far, Haddix has been heartened by the posts shared. “This reminds me how brilliant and creative the kidlit community is,” she said. “Even if the posts convince just one person to take precautions, it’s worth it because we’ve shut down one chain of transmission. It can make a big difference.”