Written by Donna Lander | 2015
Who Do You Think I Am? Who Do You Think I Am? This sassy title by Dawn McLaughlin, self-publisher, makes us all pause for a minute and think about that very question. Every child, with starry eyes and limitless dreams, wonders who he is and what person he wants to become. To find answers to these questions, a child reads books which fuel his imagination and send him on adventures of un-paralleled discovery. But these books lack the important message of positive potential in children and the diversity that is needed in our multi-ethnic world.
Eager to address these specific issues, Dawn accomplishes a monumental task in her own journey as a children’s author and self-publisher. She brings to fruition a dream that began in her teen years and is fulfilled as an adult. After the birth of her children, McLaughlin’s love for children’s literature blossoms and she excitedly follows this path of writing. This trajectory leads her to contact major publishing companies with her ideas. However, frustration accumulates over time as one publishing company after another rejects her proposals. More often than not, the timing is off between what she submits and what the companies want. Yet she perseveres year after year, not realizing it would take twenty-three years before her dream becomes reality.
Meanwhile, Dawn volunteers with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Organization in her home town and commits to helping underprivileged children of many ethnic minorities. She searches for children’s literature that will encourage the children and nurture their diverse talents and strengths. But in the process, Dawn realizes that the publishing world is a limited industry with 93% of the children’s books lacking diversity. Coming from Puerto Rican heritage, McLaughlin knows only 1.5% of books are printed by Hispanic and Latino authors like herself. This underscores the seriousness in her mission to see diversity become the norm in children’s literature. In her understanding, “If kids continually pick up books and do not see themselves in these books, why would they think these books are for them? Why would they read? Why would they feel included in community? Books are about information, communication, history, culture. If kids are continually not seeing themselves in books, that is a message to them too. We are not giving them a clear picture of what the world is.”
Dissatisfaction and disillusionment stir in her soul and Dawn passionately pursues the journey to write and self-publish her own expressive children’s stories. The first of many books to come, Who Do You Think I Am addresses the potential in children, and promotes a “sassy” way of addressing the “labels” society tends to place on their identity. The text speaks to the heart of a child and challenges the reader to be free to be anything he or she wants to be. The story reminds him that he isn’t required to fit a mold or label. The illustrations support and expound this beautiful message with multiple drawings of children from diverse ethnic backgrounds, such that any reader can identify him or herself within the story.
The illustrations, whimsical and identifiable, support Dawn’s unique and fascinating approach to children’s literature. Out of loving passion for kids, McLaughlin hires young illustrators to compliment her text. The desire of her company, Positively Publishing Kids, “is to address the lack of diversity in children’s literature and to provide artistic and financial opportunities to kids by working with them to create books.” When she addresses the young illustrators, she gives them the text of the story and encourages them to interpret the text. Dawn allows them to illustrate it in the way it impacts them or in the way the images are produced in them.
This creative process directs back to the time when McLaughlin brainstorms about Who Do You Think I Am and the vision she creates for her company. This vision is to nurture the soul of a child, to be positive and remind children how wonderful they are. Dawn desires children to feel good about themselves, and to understand they are amazing people with unlimited potential. Her most rewarding experience and first glimpse that this purpose is being fulfilled happens one evening when she is invited to a literacy night at a neighborhood school to read Who Do You Think I Am to the children in attendance. After her reading, while children sit and draw pictures, a 7 year old African American boy makes his way over to her table and says to her, “I love that book!” This poignantly illustrates what Who Do You Think I Am and Positively Publishing Kids is all about! As Dawn so eloquently states, “Do we want our children to grow up in love and acceptance or fear and dissent? The choice is ours. Teaching diversity matters!”
To get this message to the masses, McLaughlin pursues her dream and keeps her goal in front of her eyes, battling hurdle after hurdle until she finally publishes her own book. Dawn shares this experience with me during our interview: “When I got the book in the mail, that was a dream for me, a dream come true to actually hold my book.” From the first step of deciding to self-publish to the final step of actual publication, she faces few obstacles. In her words, during that two year process, “everything flowed, everything just worked…this process was exactly all things falling into place.” Dawn advises and encourages anyone who is traveling a similar journey as her own to keep positive and don’t give up. She affirms any author to try to publish with a large publishing company first. If there is continual resistance in all the efforts, then move on to self-publishing. Dawn admits self-publishing requires dedication, commitment and perseverance, but is worth every moment when you hold the completed book in your hands.
Dawn revels in the joy of the adventure, and expresses her elation with the finished product, Who Do You Think I Am. She is overwhelmed by the expert quality, strength and durability of the books, as well as the personal touch, effective team work, and professional care of the TSE staff. She asks me to be sure I include her appreciation and endorsement for TSE World Wide Press in the article. That certainly is my pleasure to fulfill her request, only because TSE selects its customers as much as our customers select TSE. We are grateful for Dawn McLaughlin and her passionate purpose to close the diversity gap and produce positive children’s literature. Who Do You Think I Am is just the beginning of many more books from Positively Publishing Kids that address these issues and make us all wonder who we are and what people we want to become!