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U.S. health officials are recommending that people wear face masks in public to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, especially when physical distancing is difficult to maintain. Although this is a reasonable precaution, for many young children this new normal will look strange and might even feel scary.

The book, The Task of the Mask, was written to help allay young children’s worries, so they can be better prepared for this situation. The language in the story is lyrical and upbeat. And its message is clear: the purpose of the face mask is to collect nose and mouth germs so they don’t spread to other people. It also describes the difference between a face mask and an eye mask, which is something many young children use in pretend play. Most importantly, at the end of the story it reminds children that although the face mask might look different, the person behind the mask is always the same!


  • If possible, read the story before going with your child into public venues, where people will be wearing face masks.

  • Keep this book available for children to review. They may want to hear the story over and over again. This is a sign that they are working to understand and make meaning of the changes they are experiencing.

  • Engage your child in conversation as you read the story to them; listen carefully to their questions and respond simply, honestly, and in a matter-of-fact manner.

  • Cut-out the paper face mask template in the back of the book and invite your child to decorate it. It may be helpful to make a stencil of the mask so this activity can be easily repeated.

  • Encourage your child to make face masks for a favorite doll or stuffed animal.

  • If available, add a real face mask to your child’s pretend play toys.

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