By Kurt Johnson
As we look to find a successful business model for Rememberize, I find myself spending a lot of time thinking about different ways to energize the process of sharing personal and family history. The biggest area of focus for us is on stories, because we believe those are much more likely to be read and shared by the writer’s friends and family.
It’s one thing to record a chronological collection of facts about a life, but it’s another thing to make those names, dates and events come to life in the mind and heart of those who are privileged to read it.
It’s one thing to share the entries from a personal journal that delivers all of the information about the places I went and the people with whom I interacted today, but it’s another thing entirely to allow my friends and family to find entertainment and inspiration from those parts of my life story.
That’s why we love the stories. I love it when eyes light up as someone shares a story that changed her life. I really enjoy hearing about the life lessons learned as someone recounts a poignant experience from which he draws daily inspiration.
Anyway, back to my story. While seeking inspiration for products with which we might get involved to help people get excited about family and personal history, I happened to be looking at a stack of illustrated children’s books on the shelf in our home. Then, it hit me. How much more real would the stories of my ancestors be for my grandchildren if they could read them (or have them read to them) in the format of an illustrated children’s book.
As we discussed the prospect of such a thing here at Rememberize, ideas started to flow. In addition to helping someone write, design and print a children’s book that would excite the young ones in their families about their family’s history, how much more memorable would that experience become if members of the family joined with us in producing the content of the book?
From those thoughts and discussions, our Rememberize Family History Children’s Book project was born. The stories we tell in children’s books can turn living relatives into superheroes in the eyes of the children in our families or they can tell those stories from our family’s history that bring ancestors to life for these young children. So, to prove the concept, we created our initial book, and I wrote it using an adult-level written story from my own family’s history.
It’s the story of my great-great-great grandfather, Jens Jorgensen, and his wife, Maren. After coming to America from Denmark to answer the call to be near the prophet, they changed their names to James and Mary Johnson. The most notable story about James comes from the time when they were crossing the plains with their handcart, and because of an injury to his leg, he was forced to leave earlier than the rest of the company to get a head start, and then join his wife in the evening after he caught back up with them.
While he was alone on the plains, James had an encounter with a herd of stampeding buffalo that is well known among the adults in our family. His life was spared after fervent prayer to his Father in Heaven, and the buffalo went around him. Now, the youngest members of our family get to learn about James as well, in words and pictures they can understand.
The best part of this project for me is that my seven-year-old (she just turned eight this week) granddaughter, Ally, drew more than half of the illustrations for the book. Her parents shared those parts of the story with her, and Ally came up with the concept for her illustration, and then she carried it out. It was a privilege for me to produce a book that includes the imagination and creativity of Ally, and it means more to our family because of it.
This is the kind of product that draws me to what we do at Rememberize. It makes memories memorable in so many incredible ways. We’d love to help everyone do something similar with stories from their families.
Visit the children’s book page (Rememberize Illustrated Children’s Book) on our website for more information on getting started with your own project.