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Will Vaughan family's book project help children learn to love themselves?
May 28, 2015
By Adam Martin-Robbins

A Maple family’s book project is helping spread the word about the importance of learning to love yourself.

The book, How to Love Myself and Others, was written about seven months ago by James John Malaniak, a New Jersey native who now calls Vaughan home.

“My back went out on me one day. I was on the floor for four days. I couldn’t go to work, I couldn’t go to my bedroom,” said the 42-year-old father of two. “In that four days I wrote four children’s books - one was about love, one was about appreciation, one was about forgiveness and one was about the ego, all for children.”

Once he’d finished writing, the Malaniaks decided to make the books a “family project.”

For the first book, his wife, Tania, served as editor while their son Cade, 12, is the illustrator and their daughter Neve, 9, is in charge of marketing.

It took Cade about a month and a half to complete the 15 bright, colourful drawings that bring the 33-page book to life.

Once that was finished, they decided to publish the book through Balboa Press, the self-publishing arm of Hay House Publishing, an American firm specializing in spiritual and self-help books.

Neve, meanwhile, came up with the idea of giving away bags of jelly beans with copies of the book, since the sweet treats play a prominent part in the book.

Each family member gets a quarter of every dollar made through book sales and, so far, they’ve been selling really well, James John says.

He attributes that to the book’s simple, yet profoundly important message.

“How to Love Myself and Others introduces young children how to truly love themselves every day. Once they learn to fill themselves up with self-love, it shows them how to give love to others, no matter what people look like or where they come from,” he says, reading from the book jacket. “This book offers an opportunity for parents and children to talk about values that are the foundation of a truly happy life.”

Early on, James John shared the book with a group of 10 mothers, some who have kids and some who don’t, to get feedback.

“They all said, ‘Are you kidding me, we need this. Forget about the children, this is what we need in life.’”

Since the book came out, he’s been hearing that over and over again, whether its following readings at local schools or during book signings such as the recent one at Chapters Woodbridge.

“The reception has been just unbelievable,” he says. “I’ve had a better response from young teens and parents, who’ve said they need this.”

Tania admits the response has surpassed her expectations.

“When he first wrote the book, I thought, ‘Yeah, it’s a really nice message but I’m not sure people are really going to grasp it.’ But I was really floored at how the response has been so positive. And people are really moved by the whole message,” she said. “It’s opened up my eyes, in a big way, to the need for this book.”

The family plans to continue sharing the workload on future books.

“It was a lot of work for Cade and too much of a good thing can be a little daunting,” Tania said. “We wanted this to continue to be a really fun experience for all of us. So we decided, in agreement, that all three of us - Cade, Neve and I - are going to contribute to the illustrations the next few books. That way it’s not such a big, heavy responsibility on one person.”

But that’s still a ways off.

For now the family is focusing on getting How to Love Myself and Others into as many young hands as possible.

“I want to get (the message) to children at a young age because here you have parents who don’t have self-love for themselves. They can’t teach their children,” James John said.

The book is available through most major online retailers or through James John’s website