Claire Ward-Dutton is a web designer, a mother, and the founder of Little Parachutes, a website that finds and categorizes picture books that help children with some of life’s challenges. She was kind enough to take 5 minutes and answer a few questions!
1. What is Little Parachutes?
Little Parachutes is a website which provides a unique and simple way to search for picture books that address situations and issues that young children experience. By browsing the Little Parachutes library you can quickly find stories which feature subjects such as sharing, moving house, potty training, eating healthy and visiting the doctor. Also included are more challenging situations such as bereavement, adoption, divorce and serious illness in the family.
2. How did you come up with the idea?
The idea for Little Parachutes came to me at the time my son (who was then a toddler) started to be frightened at bedtime, claiming there were ‘monsters under the bed.’ He has always been comforted and entertained by picture books, so I instinctively started searching for a story that I thought might address his fears. I quickly realized, despite the fact that there is an abundance of picture books published which cover situations and issues affecting the very young, they are often very tricky to find.
As an adult facing a problem, we tend to browse for titles, and these titles invariably describe the problem (eg, ‘Coping With Divorce’). This searching method simply doesn’t work with children’s picture books , which often have completely abstract, unrelated titles (such as ‘The Last Noo Noo’ by Gill Murphy, which is a story about a little monster giving up his dummy, but you wouldn’t guess this from the title!) Even if you do ‘get lucky’ and find a title that gives you a clue to the content within, it is often still very hard to ascertain whether the story is suitable for a child’s particular situation (book publishers rarely provide a full synopsis of fiction books—adults don’t want to know what happens at the end of the story—but this is often vital if you are trying to judge the suitability of a picture book.)
So I embarqued on a journey to provide a service which would soothe this particular headache and Little Parachutes was born.
3. What’s the most interesting or unusual experience you’ve had establishing the site?
Something quite interesting and unusual about Little Parachutes is that it was built, and continues to run, on no budget whatsoever. My husband and I used our web development backgrounds to design and build the site. Friends and family were enormously generous with their time and helped to review books, write articles, and provide illustrations and other expertise. Despite the lack of budget, it has had millions of visitors from all over the world and seems to do the job it was intended for!
4. How much of an impact is Little Parachutes having? Are you getting much feedback?
The feedback I get is overwhelmingly positive. I get a lot of emails from parents and carers telling me how books they have found through the website have helped a child who is going through really troubling times. It is a great honour to be able to have a positive impact in situations such as these. I also get lots of inquiries from authors and illustrators who think their book might be a good match to the website and a good deal of book theme suggestions!
5. How can authors, illustrators, or publishers let you know of a book that should be listed on Little Parachutes?
I’m in the process of re-designing the website to include more submission guidelines, this is coming soon, but in the meantime you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.