A new project has kicked off in Japan to offer remote read-aloud story time sessions to children who are battling cancer and other diseases at hospitals, while avoiding person-to-person contact.
With no sign in sight of an end to the coronavirus pandemic, pediatric wards at hospitals remain forced to impose restrictions on visiting hours and volunteer activities.
Through the use of information and communications technology, the project allows participants to read picture books to such children online.
An event to read books to hospitalized children and their families was held May 21 by Ronald McDonald House Charities Japan, a foundation that runs accommodations for families accompanying their hospitalized children.
During the event, some 80 children at the National Center for Child Health and Development in Tokyo and their family members watched an Instagram live stream of Japanese actress Kaho Minami reading a picture book from another location.
While staff members at the hospital ward still read to children as usual, volunteers from the outside are no longer allowed to swap out books for different ones at a library space, usually conducted once a week, amid the coronavirus crisis.
In addition, concerts, live performances and other events are put on hold.
Eriko Toyoda, who works at the center as child care staff, noted that such remote services can "turn the children's everyday lives into a different world."
The foundation plans to offer such services to other medical institutions throughout Japan.
"We'd like to work on projects that will encourage children to face their illnesses with bravery and cheer them on, regardless of their situations," said Naoko Iino, executive director of the foundation.