NFL star Tony Dungy shares the heart behind a new series of children’s books.

Tony and Lauren Dungy bring powerful qualifications to their new series of children’s books. His success in the NFL and her experience as an early childhood educational specialist make them the ideal authors behind the Team Dungy books, which follow a diverse group of friends at an elementary school as they learn life and character-building lessons through sports. The series kicked off this past summer with Austin Plays Fair and Maria Finds Courage (Harvest Kids), with a third book scheduled to come out in 2019. In this interview, Tony explains the origins of the Team Dungy childrens books, shares how the series fits into the larger vision of their ministry, and reveals their heart for as advocates for adoption…

What inspired you to create a series of children’s books about building character?

It really started when Lauren and some of the Buccaneers wives launched a program to read to elementary school students in Tampa. They had a hard time finding books that had exciting stories but also good messages. It became a mission of ours from that point to try to create some books that kids could enjoy but that would also promote discussions about issues children go through and ways to build character.

It’s fun that you’re both in the books, too! When in the process did you decide you were going to do that?

We wanted to have books that showed diversity and include children of all races and backgrounds. We also wanted to have adults interacting with those children and helping them grow. In consulting with the people at Harvest House, we decided that having us coach a team might be the best way to do this.

Do you think the sports focus also make the lessons more accessible because these are games the children have either seen or already played themselves?

Most children can relate to the sports stories because they have had some of those experiences when they’ve played games. We’ve also found we can tell life stories very quickly using examples from sports. It helps the children understand the message.

Are these books intended to be read by the children, or read by parents to the children? Do you think they create a conversation starter for parents and their children?

We hope that both things will happen. We want the stories to be engaging and easy enough for the children to read themselves. But, we also want to encourage parents to read to their children. We hope the children who read themselves may even ask their parents about the lessons in the stories. We definitely want to stimulate discussion between parents and their children about issues like integrity, friendship, teamwork, and helping others.

Click through to find out their professional backgrounds naturally lent themselves to the books…

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