Previously published author chooses self publishing for motivational children’s books

If cartoon monkeys and kangaroos are what it takes to get kids exercising, Len Saunders will provide.

Len Saunders Mug

Spunky the Monkey and Joey the Kangaroo are the first two books in Len Saunders’ “An Adventure in Exercise” series for children. Saunders said the books are meant to be interactive and get kids to read and exercise simultaneously.

An elementary school physical education teacher, Saunders has been a leader in the field of health and children’s fitness for more than 25 years. He formerly served as a consultant on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, and he is currently an American Heart Association spokesperson on the issue of childhood obesity and childhood fitness.

“Heart disease is the number one killer in our country, and many kids do have risk factors for heart disease. And when I hear from organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that obesity among children ages 6 to 11 has doubled over the last 20 years, and nearly tripled for adolescences ages 12 to 19, I get alarmed.”

Spunky the Monkey

Saunders’ book Keeping Kids Fit – a guide for parents – was published by LaChance Publishing this May. But when it came to getting his children’s books out, Saunders had to go a different route.

“I knew that the children’s market was kind of tough,” said Saunders. “And my literary agent doesn’t really handle children’s books, so she was telling me about the ins and outs and how difficult it would be. It’s not something that you can just get done; it’s so competitive.”

Rather than delay getting his books out to kids, Saunders decided to self publish, choosing AuthorHouse.

“The books look beautiful, and there’s been good feedback,” Saunders said.

Recently, Spunky the Monkey and Joey the Kangaroo won the prestigious PTPA (Parent Tested, Parent Approved) Award, a designation voted on by more than 40,000 parents.

“This award is right up my alley and what my life’s mission is all about,” he said.

Joey the Kangaroo

In addition to the many endorsements that Saunders has received (from the likes of Michael Phelps and Cal Ripken, Jr. among others), he has recently been featured in national magazines, such as Parents, Disney’s FamilyFun, and on prominent television programs such as Good Morning America.

Saunders explains how he promotes his book and his cause simultaneously.

“I send letters out to various magazines and newspapers. I start locally and try to work up from there. A lot of times when you start local, you get more feedback from bigger magazines and newspapers,” he said. “A local Gannett paper writes about the book, but the USA Today picks up the lead, and they mention it on their website, so it continues like that.”

With his teaching job, his speaking engagements, the side gig as a writer, working to promote the books, planning his annual Project ACES (All Children Exercising Simultaneously) day and spending time with his own family and children, Saunders’ schedule is packed. But for him, it’s all a labor of love.

“Someone needs to take a lead role and educate kids and families,” Saunders said. “Most kids feel that they’re healthy and fit, so why bother? But they need to know that they’re eating right and exercising now for the future.”

Look for Saunders’ next exercise star, “Rudy the Rabbit,” to make an appearance sometime in the near future. For more information about Len Saunders and his books, visit his website

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