Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Today we have with us the tremendously talented and prolific Dawn Renee Young, Ed.S. The Mom’s Choice Award-winning author of Little Cub’s Big List: Fun With Sight Words helps young children master learning sight words—those tricky words we all need to recognize by sight rather than try to spell them out, because so often they don’t sound the way they look. So if you have children pre-K and up who are going through that stage of reading development, Dawn’s Little Cub’s Big List could offer just the help you need.
MCA: Dawn, I understand that you started out as a teacher, became a principal, picked up some graduate degrees and then became an author! Could you tell us a bit about what must have been a remarkable journey?
I am from a small town in Ohio. I was born with a visual disability. A cell to my optic nerve didn’t develop at birth. It is uncorrectable. My parents were told that I needed to go to a school for blind children. That never happened! I have never allowed my disability to interfere with my dreams.
I attended public school, and received my elementary teaching degree from Kent State University. Later I went back and got my Master’s Degree in Administration and Supervision from Trevecca Nazarene College and then my Ed.S in Character Education from Austin Pea State University.
My first career was spent as a teacher, elementary school principal, teacher improvement coordinator, and reading specialist. Now I am a full-time author. I have 11 books published.
My hobbies and interests include spending time with family and friends, reading, writing, crocheting, knitting, swimming, and golfing. (No, I can’t see where my ball goes. LOL. But I have lots of help.)
MCA: On top of all that, don’t you now have an active role in SCBWI?
Yes, I am a member of SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and serve as the SCBWI Midsouth Social Director for the Nashville area. I also belong to Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Writing Challenge.
MCA: We hope you’ll share with us your path to becoming a writer. What inspired you?
I enjoyed reading and writing as a child. I kept a diary and loved to write poetry. My goal was to write a picture book one day. In 2011, I began writing picture book manuscripts. Currently, I have written over 50 different ones.
My first book, The ABCs of Making Good Choices, was published in 2013. I self-published seven books in the Mrs. Good Choice series (2013-2015). I also wrote my own memoir, My World of Light and Love … by Dawn.
All of my picture books, except for the first one, have a heart hidden on every page. I tell children the heart is to remind them to make good choices.
MCA: Fifty picture book manuscripts—that’s quite an accomplishment! Tell us, what was your inspiration for writing Little Cub’s Big List?
I love helping little ones learn to read. After much research, I learned that there are tons of books about sight words, but I was unable to find a book about a character struggling to practice their word list.
MCA: How did you come to choose your platform, Mrs. Good Choice?
As an elementary teacher and principal for 13 years, I based my school mission on teaching children to make good choices. Every morning, we said the Character Counts Pledge. I based my discipline practices on teaching children how to improve their behavior instead of focusing on what they did wrong.
MCA: Could you provide a brief synopsis of Little Cub’s Big List?
Little Cub wants more than anything to learn to read, but when he discovers he has to learn his sight word list he becomes discouraged. With the help of his family and daily practice, anything can happen.
MCA: What are some of the key lessons found in the book?
The one key lesson found in Little Cub’s Big List is that practicing every day can be fun. The seven days of the week are found within the text. There is a list of sight words and a page of helpful ideas for parents and teachers in the back of the book.
MCA: If you could ensure that readers of your book walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?
Perseverance pays off.
MCA: I understand Little Bear’s entire family gets in on the act to help him learn his sight words—such a fun idea. What kind of response from readers have you received?
Parents, librarians, and teachers find the book very helpful with encouraging little ones to read.
MCA: Could you tell us about your Author Visits?
Author visits are my favorite thing about being a children’s author. I visit Pre-schools and schools Kindergarten to fourth grades. I structure each visit to the age of the group. With little ones, I begin my program with my Mrs. Good Choice puppet. She captures their attention immediately. I like to incorporate singing and movement in each program.
With third and fourth graders I present the writing process and discuss what makes a good story. The students write a rough draft during this 45-minute visit.
MCA: Sounds like a wonderful experience for the kids. What is next for your writing endeavors?
I have two more picture books coming out later this year: The ABCs of God’s Love and Something New.
The ABCs of God’s Love is a rhyming book with photographs of children in place of drawn illustrations. Something New is about getting a new sibling.
In 2024 I am scheduled to have three more books published by Solander Press. One is an early chapter book about a character that loves to tell jokes, and there will be two more picture books.
I am very blessed to have the opportunity to do what I love, share valuable messages with children.
MCA: That’s something to look forward to, Dawn—and that you’re continuing to take your educational “Good Choices Matter” program into schools and libraries. Thanks again for speaking with us, and we certainly wish you the best with your upcoming projects!
You can learn more about Dawn Renee Young and her award-winning book, Little Cub’s Big List, by visiting her MCA Shop pages.