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Canadian children's pandemic experiences shared in online exhibit

The Canadian Children's Literacy Foundation has launched an online exhibit to showcase artworks from kids about their pandemic experience. Nine-year-old Airlie Johnston shared her experience through a comic she made.  (Shandy Johnston - image credit)
The Canadian Children's Literacy Foundation has launched an online exhibit to showcase artworks from kids about their pandemic experience. Nine-year-old Airlie Johnston shared her experience through a comic she made. (Shandy Johnston - image credit)

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on people of all ages across Canada and the world these past three years, including kids.

To highlight the impacts on children, a new online exhibition has been launched by the Canadian Children's Literacy Foundation called Lost & Found: A Digital Exhibit of Kids' Pandemic Stories. It features a selection of artworks from around 5,000 children who shared their pandemic experiences through drawings, writing, videos, and poetry, according to the foundation.

Ariel Siller, the organizer and CEO of the Canadian Children's Literacy Foundation, said part of the reason the exhibit was launched was because the impact of the pandemic on children is discussed more than their experiences are heard.

"It's so critical to hear kids' stories in their own words," Siller said. "It helps them build literacy skills, to have the experience of telling their stories and understanding, most importantly, that their stories matter."

Shandy Johnson of Vancouver said she thought it was an interesting project as soon as she heard about it, and her nine-year-old daughter, Airlie, was eager to take part.

Airlie said she made a comic to contribute to the exhibit about a girl who got COVID-19.

Shandy Johnston
Shandy Johnston

"She wakes up one morning. She tests to see if she has coronavirus, and she doesn't, and she goes to school, and she sees her friends, and she's so happy."

Johnson said the story reflects her daughter's real-life experience.

"She was actually just in kindergarten that year, so she had already just adjusted to school and made all of her friends, and then all of a sudden wasn't seeing them."

"It was interesting because a lot of her communication turned online much like the rest of us, and that was actually reflected in her comic as well."

Shandy Johnston
Shandy Johnston

Calling the pandemic an adjustment, Shandy said her experience in British Columbia was different from her friends in Ontario, where many schools turned to online learning because of COVID-19 measures.

In Toronto, 11-year-old Trivien Wang contributed a drawing with symbols of Toronto, Canada and Ontario, as well as reading part of a journal entry on CBC's Metro Morning earlier this week.

"In March of 2020, the whole country and the world went into lockdown," Wang read, "It was very bad. At least we had each other. Every day we would wish that the virus was over."

Wang ends the entry by saying though the pandemic is not over yet, kids are able to go to school and have fun.

Airlie said her favourite part of participating in the project was talking about how she felt during the pandemic, saying she sometimes felt happy, sad, and angry, "but one of the happiest times for me was when both of my cousins were born."

As of Friday, the foundation says the exhibit has collected more than 1,100 online stories and counting.