Picture Books with Purpose
By Kendall Schmitke
I remember when inspiration struck. A woman who had been adopted from Haiti vulnerably described the question that had haunted her life: “Why didn’t my mother love me?” My heart broke as I imagined what it must be like to grow up plagued by that doubt. And I wondered if possibly she had lived under a lie. What if she was placed for adoption because her mother wanted something better for her than she could provide? Now that would be a great love! That woman would be a hero. An image appeared in my mind of a sparrow, an egg tucked under her arm because her nest was broken, desperately looking for a new nest for her baby. The story Twice as Tight was born.
I’ve always believed that a story was more powerful than a debate. Like the stone that David used to slay Goliath, I knew that a story could bypass intellectual defenses and penetrate a heart. What I didn’t expect was the ways in which a social issue (in our case, adoption) would supercharge our story. Here are three reasons why you should combat your Goliath with a picture book.
1) Tap into your passion
There is power in your passion for an issue. A story that draws from your own experiences will resonate with others. Our adoption experience gave weight to our story in all kinds of intangible ways. You can’t put your finger on it but stories that are manufactured seem to ring hollow. Make sure that you draw from that deep well inside you.
2) Focus your market
The social issue you address will focus your market. When we wrote a book about adoption we instantly gained interest in the adoption community. On Dragon’s Den they constantly warn entrepreneurs against narrowing an audience in this way. Not true in our case. The adoption issue actually created the market for our book.
3) Influence a generation
A children’s book can influence a generation. Story time is where imaginations are sparked and worldviews are formed. The leaders of tomorrow are being read to today. I am convinced that a carefully crafted picture book aimed at issues such as poverty or bigotry could change the world.
You may not have to wait that long to see the results. We were humbled to hear of a young woman who chose to place her child for adoption because of our story. Others have shared how the story has changed their perspective or brought hope or healing. Our book launch event was filled with fascinating conversations with kindred spirits, each bringing new insights and encouragements. It is tremendously fulfilling. I hope that you get to experience these wonderful fringe benefits of writing a picture book with purpose.
About this Contributor:
Kendall & Tamara Schmitke had three beautiful daughters when they fulfilled their lifelong dream of adopting. In 2010, they added a wonderful son to their family through international adoption. Twice as Tight is their first book.