Children now have the opportunity to be a part of history by sharing their experiences of life during the COVID-19 lockdown. Children’s author Natalie Reeves Billing says these experiences will be displayed on a dedicated ‘Children of Lockdown’ website to be preserved as a digital time capsule by the British Library in the UK Web Archive.
For this historic project, children aged between 3 and 17 are being asked to reflect on their lockdown experiences and use stories, poems or pictures to share those experiences. By preserving those experiences in the British Library’s UK Web Archive, children of the future will be able to see and understand what life was like during this unprecedented time, through the eyes of the children of today.
There is also a competition to find the most creative response in each age category, to be judged by five children’s authors: Natalie Reeves Billing, Nicola J Rowley, Janey Jones, Sandra Horn and Rhys Brisenden. Winners in each age category will receive National Book Tokens.
Natalie Reeves Billing, author of My Mummy Is A Monster: My Children Are Monsters said: “Having a record of how we lived and how we coped as a nation will inspire generations to come. Our children will become a recorded part of that history. Children have so much to say, and expressing themselves subconsciously via storytelling is the perfect way to unlock that message they wish to deliver. Not every child can find the right way to frame their feelings about lockdown but art and creative writing can give them that outlet and the digital time capsule gives children a platform to share their feelings on the world right now.
“My social enterprise, Split Perspectivz, explores the importance of self-expression via storytelling of all forms. That ability to download information from our heads onto paper helps promote a well-balanced young person. Holding onto our feelings can be damaging, and many people forget that children feel worry, depression and anxiety too. With this project, children have that opportunity to put their experiences in one place, recounting and sharing it, and subconsciously, making sense of things.”
This project is the brainchild of Charlotte McMillan, founder of the digital scrapbook app Storychest. “It started as a personal project that I asked my three boys to do; they have witnessed a fundamental moment in history, when everything that was predictable about our lives was suspended – the ability to come and go as we please, to see friends and family, and to go to school.
“I thought it was important for them to express their thoughts and reflections about lockdown, almost as a way of putting it into perspective – the negatives but also the positives – and to see what we can take on board for the future. My friends also got involved and I thought how great this would be if we could extend the idea to all children across the UK, for their reflections to be captured in one place.”
Charlotte heard about the British Library’s UK Web Archive, so she approached them with her idea of creating the Children of Lockdown digital time capsule. Head of Contemporary British Publications at the British Library, Ian Cooke, said: “The British Library will be including Children of Lockdown in its collection on COVID-19, as part of the UK Web Archive. This collection covers medical, healthcare, policy and social impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“As part of this, we are preserving a record of personal responses and accounts of life during Coronavirus, through communications made public online and preserved in the UK Web Archive. Children of Lockdown will be an important part of this collection, showing first-hand accounts of how lockdown impacted a generation, through a range of creative and written responses.”
Natalie said: “With lockdown imposing restrictions on our freedom, we must look to all opportunities for life enrichment. Giving children the gift of creativity is perhaps the most important thing we can be doing for mental health now.
“I am a massive advocate for education. Literacy is the key to a lifelong love of reading which gives us a place to escape to in our minds – our imagination – and it is a place no one can ever take away from us. When we have that, there is nowhere we can’t go. When we set our minds free, through reading or being creative, we can forget about the problems of the world, and focus our thoughts on positives.”
Natalie urges all teachers and parents to encourage their children to start creating now, to be a part of this historic Children of Lockdown digital time capsule project. Poems, stories or pictures can be submitted up until 7pm on 31st July and winners will be announced on 31st August on Storychest’s Facebook page and website.
For more information about submitting entries to Children of Lockdown, go to https://childrenoflockdown.storychest.com. Once winners have been announced, all entries will be accessible to read here. Only the first name, age and location of each child will be made public.