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The Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba has undertaken a project designed to alleviate concerns kids from northern and remote communities may have when visiting Winnipeg's Children's Hospital for the first time.

A book, following Dolly the deer's first hospital visit, has been developed in four languages: English, Cree, Oji-Cree, and Ojibwe. More languages are planned for the future.

The author and illustrator of the book, called My New Friend, is Mike Parkhill. Parkhill says he wanted to put things in the book that weren't already written about.

"We just tried to set expectations properly for the children and the parents, and be pro-active about it. So if they read the book over and over again, if they ever have an emergency where they have to come to this hospital, you know, we can get rid of a little bit of that trepidation for them," says Parkhill.

Dr. Celia Rodd, is a pediatric endocrinologist at the hospital. She says a quarter to a third of their patient population clientele speak languages other than English. She says the Canadian Pediatric Society's Read, Speak, and Sing program encourages pediatricians to take an active role in promoting early childhood literacy. Dr. Rodd says the goal is to build a library of 20-25 books for each kid by the time they're five years old, but she says two years ago they realized they didn't have books in Indigenous Manitoba languages.

"Additionally, we didn't have a tool or a story to help that sick child that was coming from that far away, remote area to fly down here to Winnipeg to get care. You can imagine the anxiety in that child and that parent, and we wanted a story to create and reduce that anxiety and give them some coping skills," says Dr. Rodd.

Parkhill says he doesn't create books on his own, but gets help along the way.

"I get a lot of help from a lot of translators, I go to a lot of Anishinaabe traditionalists, to make sure everything's accurate. Then I go to my target audience, which is four and five-- six-- -year-old children, and I get them to pick the characters and the eyes and the ones they tend to go with the best," says Parkhill.

The book's cover credits Veronica Atwin for the concept and says Gerda Schell co-developed the story with Parkhill. On the Ojibwe edition, Wanda Barker is credited for translations. Marsha Blacksmith translated it into Cree.

The Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba says the book collaboration was made possible by the generosity of Margaret and Ernst Schell and the Winnipeg Foundation.

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