MVP is a series of children’s books that aim to inspire honorable character-building in young men and women through healthy mentoring relationships which prepares little ones to live responsible and meaningful lives.
The sixteen MVP Kids characters, along with their family members, make up twelve families. An important goal of establishing the MVP Kids brand is to create familiarity and friendship for readers, a basis of trust to address serious life issues and challenges in products for maturing children. The products follow the MVP Kids as they grow from toddlers to adolescents.
MVP kids is currently working with five-time Emmy Award winning producer Jim Castle and Orphan Films Studio to develop a television series pitch. Lead author Megan Johnson is very excited about the future possibilities. Megan is the author of the “Celebrate!” series for preschoolers and the “Help Me Understand” series for elementary children.
Megan studied and worked in linguistics before completing her degree in Education with an emphasis in counseling. Megan has lived on three continents and visited more than fifteen countries, giving her a wide range of cultural experiences and a love for people of various backgrounds. Her work experience includes language survey, curriculum development, expat orientation and debriefing coordinator and director of children’s ministries.
Megan and her husband have five children who are the inspiration for her writing. As a special-needs and adoptive family it is especially meaningful to Megan to be involved in Real MVP Kids’ goal that every child can see themselves in our sixteen main characters, who vary in ethnicity, abilities, culture and background.
Interestingly, all the books are written under the “Sophia Day” pen name, which is a pseudonym referring to the “Sophia Day Creative Team” that includes five individuals comprised of authors and illustrators. Working together, the team ensures the quality of each book which are then screened by a diverse team of reviewers that includes teachers, parents, children, counselors and friends who have the chance to comment on each title before it ever goes to print.
Megan recently discussed her career and more via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in writing children’s books and how did you find MVP Kids?
Megan Johnson (MJ): I have loved reading and writing since I was a child, and it was always a goal of mine to write a book “someday.” If you had asked me three years ago whether I would publish a book soon I would have said “no.” In fact, I did say “no” when our founder, Mel Sauder, approached me with his idea for MVP Kids and asked me to join the team. I didn’t think it was a good fit for this season in my family’s life, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’m glad he convinced me!
MM: What does “MVP” stand for and how important do you think the social, emotional, and cultural lessons the books in this series are?
MJ: MVP stands for “Most Valuable Person.” It conveys our goal to provide parents, educators and mentors with tools to inspire character and values that help children grow up to become “Real MVPs”, leading responsible, meaningful lives. Our world has become very distracting and while there is a lot of entertainment in our children’s lives, there is little emphasis put on developing these vital lessons. Families need trustworthy resources to help their child develop a positive sense of self, an understanding of their feelings, and how to appreciate others who are very different than themselves.
MM: Some of the books touch on some seemingly very scary and/or mature concepts, like going to the doctor or losing your temper (and the underlying reasons behind such emotional reactions). Was it difficult to convey these plot lines in an amusing yet comforting way?
MJ: As a mom, I spend most of my days coaching and comforting these kinds of concepts. Several of my children have medical needs and traumatic pasts, so I have lost a lot of sleep trying to find ways to make it through things like doctors’ visits, angry tempers, anxiety and self-esteem concerns. Some of the story lines are loosely based on our own family experiences. I do a lot of research before beginning a title. In some ways it is difficult, but it also is just natural for me to do. It’s very rewarding that our experiences and challenges can help develop resources to help others as well.
MM: You traveled a lot, so do you think that helped you gain a deeper understanding of the different cultures contained in these books?
MJ: Absolutely, I believe understanding that one’s own culture is not the only right way of doing things is an essential lesson for young people. Not all children have the opportunity to travel, so I want to bring the experiences to them in a relatable way. Our whole team approaches cultural elements in our stories with humility, research and dependence on our diverse reviewers for insight. We have cultural advisors that we reach out to on a regular basis. One time we changed about 25% of a book’s writing and illustration based on the feedback of a reviewer from the character’s cultural background. It takes extra time and patience to make sure we represent different cultures as best as we can, but we’re very committed to this aspect of our company’s products.
MM: You also have experience with foster kids and disabled children, so how does that impact your writing, if at all?
MJ: All five of my kids have atsome point had unusual medical needs or long-term disabilities. Some of these needs are very visible, such as limb and facial differences. It isn’t uncommon for us to get stares or ignorant comments from strangers. Many of our books include gentle lessons on including others who are different and how to interact with someone you don’t understand. But most of the time you’ll find our “disabled” characters simply interacting in everyday life with their family and friends. When a child has been exposed to books with kids who look and act differently, they won’t be so shocked when they see a real child with a disability. Also, two of my children came to us through adoption. Traditional parenting methods don’t always work for children with traumatic pasts, so you’ll also see parents in our books employing methods that some might call “connected parenting” or “positive parenting.” These methods, such as time-in with a parent as opposed to time-out alone, or the opportunity to do a “re-set” and act through a situation again the correct way, are effective for all children and especially therapeutic for children who have experienced hurt and rejection from previous authority figures.
MM: Some of the books contain phrases in multiple languages which is brilliant, how did you select which languages to choose?
MJ: We chose the languages based on the ancestral backgrounds of each of our MVP Kids. All of our books are based on the same cast of sixteen children from twelve families, who age along with the target age for each series.
MM: Of all the books you have written, have you a favorite?
MJ: One of my children came to our family as a preschooler without any understanding of the role of a mother or father. Our preschool book Celebrate! Mommies and Daddies grew out of our challenges and triumphs with attachment disorder during that first-year home. The last page says, “Of all the treasures in the world, it’s you I’ll always choose.” All parents must choose their children daily, but it’s an especially meaningful message for children who were truly hand-chosen to be in their family.
MM: A new television series is in the works! So, can you please tell us a bit more about that and the role you and your stories will play in it?
MJ: It has always been our founder’s vision to provide a variety of media based around the MVP Kids characters and the values we teach. We already offer e-books and apps based on some of our books, which will soon be bilingual. We desire to expand education and enrich entertainment across multiple platforms. Television has an increasingly important stake in children’s entertainment and education. We are working with five-time Emmy award winning producer Jim Castle and an animation group, Orphan Films Studio to develop a pitch to networks and video streaming companies for television series based on each of our current three book series for preschoolers, early elementary and upper elementary students. It will be ready to present to networks and streaming services this summer!
Personally, I’m most excited that all of the voice actors are the ethnicity of the child they portray. It is vitally important to us that our diversity is genuine and celebrated, not just a facade based on marketing requirements. As a team, we’re looking at our story development not only from the standpoint of creating great books, but also creating a television series. We’ve developed what we call our “Character Bible” that is constantly updated, defining all of our characters from their ancestry and story lines down to their Meyers-Briggs personality style, so that as we add more roles to the MVP Kids team all of the details will be congruent.
MM: Overall, what are your biggest goals for the future of “MVP Kids” and your career as a writer in general?
MJ: Our vision as a company is to become the go-to resource for innovative media that equips parents, teachers and counselors to inspire character in children. We envision media for children from toddlers through teenagers, engaging them in entertaining learning experiences that transform their lives. In addition to the e-books, apps and television animation, we’re also working with a potential partner about possible curriculum and puppets for use in early childhood learning centers. The possibilities are endless.
I homeschool my children, so my time for writing right now is limited to my two current series. As they grow to work more independently I hope to devote more time to writing. I have a middle grade historical adventure series currently simmering on a back burner. I’m also dreaming of a few of our characters starring in their own early chapter book series.
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To learn more, visit the official MVP Kids website.
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