I’m sitting in a coffee shop co-op, my elbow nearly touching a Black Lives Matter sign in the window, a donation jar for justice for Jerry Williams, a black man killed two weeks ago by a police officer in Asheville, replacing a tip jar on the counter, and feeling guilty about using my white middle class privilege to read SCBWI articles and brainstorm picture book ideas.
I’m always cautious about making my writing overly preachy and, because of my ethnicity and experiences, about being the wrong voice for the right cause. So what good am I doing sitting here working on picture books if they are not directly speaking out about the injustices in the world?
I’m not telling you this just to alleviate my guilt or to justify my work, but because a poignant Teachers & Writers Magazine article arrived in my inbox on just this topic while I was sitting here, suggesting that I wasn’t the only writer out there feeling this way. In case you’re struggling with the same, here are some reminders of a few of the many ways that children’s books can change the world.
- Children’s book can encourage creative and imaginative ways of thinking. Inspiring kids to think outside of the box can help them to become problem-solvers and world-changers.
- Children’s books can impart knowledge and inspire a love of learning.
- Children’s books can broaden kids’ worldview, which can foster tolerance and empathy. Be conscious of the lens through which you are writing and make sure that your books are inclusive, tolerant, and caring.
- Children’s books can create a soothing escape for kids experiencing turbulence in their own lives…
- …or they can reflect that turbulence, give kids space to process difficult emotions and feel that they are not alone in them.
- Children’s books can give kids a chance to see themselves as a hero and then give them the confidence to actually become one.
- Children’s books can directly speak out against the injustices in the world. They don’t need to be a security blanket or safe shelter for children. Kids are often more curious about the world, intelligent, and mature than we give them credit for, and the very issues that adults think are too dark or difficult for kids are often the ones that motivate them. If picture books only portray a perfect, peaceful world, kids won’t trust them when they learn that the world is not that way. Kids need both – books that tell it like it is, and books that show the limitlessness of what can be.
The pen is still mightier than the sword (or maybe in today’s world, the keyboard mightier than the assault weapon). Keep writing!