Lockdown gets graphic novel treatment

July 1, 2021

A graphic novel is bridging the gap between nursing academia, and young research subjects.

Illustration for the graphic novel by Carol Green
Illustration for the graphic novel by Carol Green

Lockdown was a tough time for many adults – but it might have looked a little different from a lower angle.

Academic research into the child’s perspective on the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 has been converted into a graphic novel for children.

University of Auckland School of Nursing associate professor Melody Smith led the project, which sought to demystify academic findings for children.

About 200 children submitted artwork, photos, poems and comments for the work, Kidshare: Lockdown perceptions in Aotearoa New Zealand, available online.

Smith said increasingly researchers were trying to innovate when it came to disseminating research findings.

“We always have our academic output, but we’re cognisant that they don’t always reach the people that we’re talking about, who also contributed to the research.”

She said the graphic novel – a story published in comic format – was a way to integrate the data from the research in a way that was relevant for children.

The biggest finding of the research was the importance of low-traffic neighbourhoods, she said.

“Not only are our kids able to get out and be more physically active… their emotional wellbeing was really supported through comments around feeling peaceful and calm and being able to hear the birds.”

She said children were able to connect with their wider community during the lockdown. “Everybody was out and about walking and cycling and scootering.”

Another important finding was “how the simple things really matter”, she said.

“Maintaining continuity in kids’ lives, and keeping things simple and slowing down, were all really important for supporting their wellbeing.”

Research had to have scientific rigour and clear methodology, to be able to influence policy, she said.

“However, really when you have projects like this… creative dissemination is a really good opportunity for us as researchers to connect more.”

Now the graphic novel, with art by Carol Green, will be shared to a wider audience thanks to the help of a well-known New Zealander.

Broadcaster and children’s entertainer Suzy Cato had originally helped share the link for the research survey, Smith said.

Cato would be sharing the novel, and broadcasting an audio version of the book on radio.