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  • Writer's pictureJordan Green

British Teacher’s Story “Lockdown Looms: Reggie Birthday Party”

Updated: Jan 25

Brings Optimism to Children Through the Pandemic

By Jordan Green | WeINSPIRE Journalist

  • Banji Alexander is the author of “Lockdown Looms: Reggie’s Birthday Party.”

  • Alexander received praise for his book and the positive impact it had on school children in the United Kingdom.

  • Alexander is set to release his second book, a musical, “New King” later this year.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The global pandemic that took over the world in 2020 was a difficult, trying time for everyone. Life did not exist outside of the home, and if it did, it wasn’t pleasant. With over 5 million deaths from COVID-19 by the end of 2021, it did not seem like there was not much positivity in the air. Children were one of the more heavily impacted groups when looking at the effects of the pandemic on day-to-day life. According to a study done by the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, 71% of parents said the pandemic negatively affected their child’s mental health. From the same study, 69% of parents said the pandemic was the worst thing to happen to their child. Banji Alexander, a year three teacher in London, saw his students' challenges and decided to help them cope with those intense emotions in a fictional way with his book, “Lockdown Looms: Reggie’s Birthday Party.”

Alexander’s parents were strict when it came to academics, and as a result, he devoted most of his time to schoolwork. Even when he wasn’t in school, he spent much of his free time reading rather than getting in trouble. His motivation for becoming a teacher was to inspire the next generation. Growing up, he did not have many teachers that looked like him and came from where he was from. Alexander wanted to be a teacher that kids could relate to.

Emma Suffield, chartered librarian and 2018 winner of the U.K. School Library Association’s School Librarian Award, said, “Lockdown Looms: Reggie’s Birthday Party will support and educate children about what they have been through throughout the pandemic. This is a beautiful story written with accessible vocabulary which brings the story of the pandemic to life and is accompanied with fabulous bright and vibrant illustrations.”

“I think that for children to reach their full potential within education, it's important that there is a diverse pool of educators who are creating and leading the curriculum and who also understand the social-economical situation in which their learners are coming from,” Alexander says.

He wrote his book “Lockdown Looms: Reggie’s Birthday Party” for the thirty students Alexander was in charge of when lockdown was enacted in 2020. He described the process of writing as a “day-by-day process.” Each day after teaching his students, he would write some more of the story and then read what he wrote the next day to his students. Alexander also talked about how he would try to incorporate the struggles his students were going through into the book. One of his students had a parent working in a different country, so he put that into the story. Another child had their grandparents pass during the pandemic, so he incorporated that into the narrative too. It was a way to let students know someone was hearing their problems and letting them know they weren’t the only ones going through challenges.

Courtesy of Banji Alexander.

Yet, the students were not the only ones going through hard times during the pandemic.

Alexander recounts, “I had my own issues. I had issues in my family. I lost my uncle during the pandemic. This book was like therapy to me because some of the themes in the story are hope, determination, adapting to change, kindness, and these were skills and qualities that I wanted my pupils to gain, but they were also qualities I had to remind myself that I was capable of tuning into during that very difficult time for myself and my family.”

Alexander also recalls the negative impacts of the pandemic he saw reflected in his students. He mentions higher levels of anxiety, gained weight, and countless hours online as the main factors that affected his students. Alexander says, “Children were looking at things online and not being happy with themselves because they're comparing themselves to the sort of forced reality that they're seeing online.”

With the book tour he is on, he gets to share the positive messages from his book with over 2,000 people every week. He has visited over 50 schools on his tour. Alexander notes that he wants people to come away from his story with a generally positive feeling. Some of the main themes within the story are kindness, resilience, adapting to change, and patience. He feels that people should know there is always a brighter ending to things, even if they seem bleak.

Courtesy of Banji Alexander.

Alexander says, “I think more personally to me for what I've taken away from writing the book is that anything is possible because writing this book has changed my life completely. One minute I was teaching, the next minute, I was on the biggest news stations here: BBC News, ITV News, Sky News, Guardian Newspaper. It literally changed my life overnight.”

Along with receiving praise from the media, Alexander also received a letter from the Mayor of London praising him for the work he did with his students during the pandemic. “I felt that it was not just a thank you to me, but it was a thank you to the whole teaching profession,” Alexander says.” When I tweeted about the letter at the time, I extended thanks and gratitude to all the teachers across the country because this was just one thing that I had done personally.”

About whether there will be any more birthday celebrations for Reggie, there will not be any more books added to the “Lockdown Looms” series. However, there will be more from Banji Alexander in the form of his second book, “New King.” It will still follow Reggie’s story, but it will discuss what it means for there to be a new ruler for the country and what that will look like for kids around the nation. Instead of being the traditional narrative, Alexander wrote his second book as a musical.

During his book tour, Alexander developed a group called Banji’s Class. Forty five students from nine different schools in London make up the group. The group’s main focus is acting, dancing, and singing with a little rap mixed. The group falls in line with Alexander’s love of music and his former aspiration to be a musician himself. He says there is no greater feeling than helping someone realize they can do something they didn’t think possible, and that is what his experience has been with Banji’s Class.

One of Alexander's main joys from teaching is inspiring the next generation. He hopes to inspire future doctors, writers, musicians, scientists, etc. There is also an emphasis on teaching his students not to limit themselves to one part of life. He says everyone can do amazing things, but it is just that people don’t lean into that side as much as they should.

“I think ultimately that is what I want my legacy to be for a child in 10, 20 years to say, ‘Hey, Banji Alexander inspired me to do what I'm doing now.’ You know that for me is a real legacy.”

Courtesy of Banji Alexander.

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