The COVID-19 pandemic turned face masks into a fashion accessory. For a Denton couple's young daughter, it was confusing.
"My 7-year-old daughter, she's very scared of anything covering faces, so she was really scared when she started to see people wearing masks," Martha Samaniego Calderon said. "So we came up with the idea of the book."
A bilingual children's book titled, 'Behind My Mask.'
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"I don't think we ever envisioned writing this book," Dan Heiman said. "I think this was a good intersection between art education and bilingual education," Samaniego Calderon said.
Heiman is an assistant education professor at the University of North Texas. His wife, Samaniego Calderon, is a graduate student at UNT's College of Visual Arts and Design. The husband and wife authored, illustrated, and published the book on their own to help their daughter, Natalia, and other children cope with the new normal.
"Students are going to need to unpack what they've been feeling, how they're feeling," Heiman said. "Because many students have possibly gone through trauma as a result of COVID-19."
Samaniego Calderon, an immigrant from Mexico, said she sometimes wore a figurative mask to fit in with different crowds long before the pandemic made mask-wearing an actual thing.
"Some people wear masks all the time to navigate different spaces," Samaniego Calderon said. "There's a connection there because masks have become a form of resistance and a form of expression," Heiman said.
Their book is meant to help kids work through feelings.
"One of the really interesting aspects of the book is that it's unfinished," Heiman said.
The last pages are outlines of blank faces, with fill-in-the-blank answers to allow children to express their feelings.
"My daughter did this," Samaniego Calderon said showing Natalia's book that said 'Today I feel...happy'. "It kind of helped her connect that when she sees people with masks, there's a human being behind the mask."
The book, Behind My Mask, comes with a weekly blog. You can purchase it here.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.