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Author interview "LaDonna N. Smith"

LaDonna Smith is the author of the children’s picture book titled The Money Tree, which won the 2014 Financial Literacy Children’s Book of the Year award from the Institute for Financial Literacy. Along with the release of The Money Tree, LaDonna recently launched a program called S.W.A.G. (Saving With A Goal), where she is working to partner with both schools and banks in an effort to provide students in grades Kindergarten through twelfth grade with high-energy and interactive financial literacy workshops. S.W.A.G. workshops are designed to help students better understand the importance of good money habits.

LaDonna hopes to educate youth from all walks of life on how to find their path to financial empowerment.

LaDonna is also the editor-in-chief of Writer's Life Magazine.

What inspired you to write The Money Tree?

I draw inspiration for my book ideas from several typical parenting routines; watching my children play or argue, overhearing them sing or talk, and listening to all the amazing ideas, concerns, and request that they come up with. I was inspired to write The Money Tree after a shopping trip where my children begged for a very expensive electronic toy. I wanted to explain needs and wants to my children in a way that they could understand. Thus, The Money Tree was born.

Will this book be a standalone or part of a series?

Originally this book was written as a standalone story book, but I have since been inspired to create a series of stories explaining financial concepts in more depth. The series of books will cover topics such as saving and budgeting, earning and investing, and the consequences of good and bad decision making with money.

What message would you like to convey with this book?

Financial literacy is incredibly important. Knowing how to spend and save money is an important part of learning how to be a responsible adult. The sooner that a child learns to budget and save, the more financially prepared he or she will be in the future.

Can you tell us some about the writer behind the book?

I am a certified youth financial educator and a publisher of not only books but board games and a literary magazine.

What are you working on now?

Along with the release of “The Money Tree” I have launched a financial literacy program called SWAG or Saving With A Goal. The SWAG program aims to address the issues we as a society have with financial literacy. By using The Money Tree as a way to connect the dots the SWAG program has collaborated with schools and banks in an effort to introduce banking concepts to young children through fun, interactive and hands-on workshops.

Do you have any other books released? What is your next release?

I currently have two other published books. Saving With A Goal is a companion workbook I designed to be used with The Money Tree. It allows young readers to really practice and use what they have learned from The Money Tree. With custom checks, deposit and withdraw slips, children are able to use the SWAG book to set up a complete at home banking system with their parents.

Mya Makes A Mess is my third published book. Mya Makes a Mess is loaded with energy and humor to tickle your child's funny bone and remind parents that “making a mess” and “helping” are a vital part of your child's growth. This whimsical story and vibrant color illustrations remind children that the adults in their life love them - mess and all.

A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned will be my second financial literacy book and my first chapter book. It will be out very soon. I’m currently putting the finishing touches on it. Stay tuned!!!

The Money Tree explains basic financial concepts and practices in plain and easy-to-understand language that children can comprehend and use in their day-to- day lives. The clear text and playful illustrations aim to simplify financial concepts like earning, saving, interest, the difference between needs and wants, and the joy of running one’s own business. To make the otherwise boring topic interesting, the concepts have been explained through small anecdotes accompanied with colorful illustrations to stimulate children and ignite a love of saving.

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