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World Book Day: Cape Town author's 'Oaky' book series goes viral

Taryn Lock is on a mission to promote youth literacy in the country. Picture: Supplied

Taryn Lock is on a mission to promote youth literacy in the country. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 23, 2020


A Cape Town author and philanthropist has

written a children’s book to help them

better understand the national Covid-19


Author of the 'Oaky' series Athol Williams,

from Century City, and his wife, illustrator Taryn

Lock, put their heads together to help many parents and children struggling to understand why

they need to stay at home. 

In the last week their free digital publication

of 'Oaky and the Virus' and the 'Oaky Virus Song',

sung by Ielmah Bardien, six, from Pelican Park,

have gone viral as it is being shared on WhatsApp

and other social media.

“Since children love Oaky we thought that

perhaps they would listen to him,” said Williams. 

Read to Rise, a literacy organisation which

reads to children, distributes the Oaky series

for free to pupils in Mitchell’s Plain, where Mr

Williams is originally from, and pupils in Soweto. 

The couple co-founded and co-directs the

organisation, which offers fun, interactive class

programmes for pupils to create a generation

of readers.

Williams and Read to Rise also hosted the

first Cape Flats Book Festival in Mitchell’s Plain

last year. 

Their seventh book in the series tells the story

of Oaky and his sister Oaket, who have to stay

indoors because a “bad virus came to town”. 

It took Williams a day to write the story and Lock four 10-hour days to draw Oaky and style

Oaket, who makes her debut. 

“We worked on the book non-stop over

Easter,” Williams said. 

The book includes a set of questions, which gives parents an opportunity to discuss the issues

with their child. 

Williams had heard from parents and

teachers that children were struggling to

understand the lockdown. “Also many parents

were not engaging with their children about the


He said they would like the free book to be

passed on. “It is our contribution to both literacy

and the fight against the coronavirus. Children

must sing the song while washing their hands

and parents must discuss the questions with their

children,” he said. 

“This book is dedicated to all health care and

emergency workers around the world fighting the


In a WhatsApp voice note to the Southern

Mail, Ielmah said: “I love singing. Oaky makes me

happy. I love Oaky”. 

Southern Mail

For more information or for a free digital copy,

email [email protected]; download the

PDF at; or to listen to

the Oaky Virus Song go to


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