Madison Strempek, 13, of Crofton, Md., a seventh-grader at Crofton Middle School, wrote and self-published a 46-page book, Everyone Makes Mistakes, to reassure and comfort children, like her, who have an incarcerated parent. She also speaks at events about the challenges these children face, and the need for criminal justice reform. Madison’s father went to jail when she was 10 years old. “I was really sad,” she said. She and her mother looked for books that could help her deal with her sorrow, “but there were no books for kids by kids about having your parent going to jail. So I decided to write my own.”
Over three months, Madison struggled to put down on paper what she had gone through. “It’s scary to share your personal problems with the world,” she said. “I had to share my deepest, darkest secrets.” Her book helps children in her situation feel less embarrassed and alone, and “tells kids they are allowed to love their parents, mistakes and all,” she said. After it was published, Madison reached out to organizations that support children of incarcerated parents, and began getting requests to speak at conferences and charity dinners. She has been invited to the White House to discuss her ideas, and was the keynote speaker at an international conference in New Zealand. Her book has now been read by kids in 30 countries and is being translated into Korean for a book launch in 2018.