“Room at the Table” is a new children’s book written by Justin Vaughn. The eBook will be released on June 15, and the paperback will be available on Amazon on June 29.
Vaughn was born and raised in Walterboro, graduating from Colleton County High School in 2007. Since then, he has been living in Bluffton. He graduated from the University of South Carolina Beaufort with a BA in early childhood education in 2011, and later received a M.Ed. in educational leadership from the University of South Carolina in 2019.
He just finished his ninth year of teaching first and second grades.
Vaughn and his wife, Abby, have a daughter, Addison Grace Vaughn, born in 2018.
With all that on his plate, Vaughn and his wife have been foster parents in Beaufort County for six years. They also operate Creative’s Closet, a foster resource center in Hardeeville, and helped provide needed clothing and essential items to foster parents in Beaufort County, Jasper County and Colleton County when they receive new placements.
It is amazing that he found time to write at all, but he did.
His new book, “Room at the Table,” is about a foster family and their first experience welcoming a little boy into their home and family. The story follows their foster son, Joshua, over the period of a year as he experiences unconditional love in a time when his world is turned upside down. “It is a heartwarming story about love and loss, and the true power of family,” said Vaughn. “It was written for children, but I believe anyone can find value in the narrative,” he said.
“This project has been something that has been on my heart for many years. I began the formal writing process of this book in 2019, and I was able to really bring it home in 2020, during the COVID-19 experience,” Vaughn said. “This experience taught me that we have to make the most of the time we are given. With the busyness of life slowed down around the country, I found myself inspired to create something that would last, long after the world speeds up again.”
Vaughn has been a foster parent for six years now and has been an educator for nine years. One common thread that has connected these two aspects of his life is writing stories for children.
He believes that books have the ability to help children learn empathy and understanding through the experiences of the characters they read about. Children are able to tackle subjects that otherwise may be difficult to talk about when they can read it in narrative format and hear the inner thoughts of the character.
“During my time in education, I have learned the importance of offering diverse books to children. As I have read countless children’s books over the years, I found it difficult to find quality books about children in foster care or children who have been adopted. Thousands of children in America are in foster care at any given moment. Think about what it would mean to them for their story to be represented in a fictional narrative,” said Vaughn.
“My students often have never heard of foster care or adoption and it leads to fantastic discussions about empathy and the ways that we can help others around us who are going through a difficult situation.
“As I crafted this book, I had two main goals in mind. I wanted to write a story that is compelling to children and helps them build empathy for others. And I wanted to write a narrative that gave the thousands of children that are fostered or adopted a collective voice, through the telling of Joshua’s story in ‘Room at the Table’,” he said.
Vaughn said he worked very hard during the writing process to handle the sometimes scary and sensitive topics of loss and foster care and to present it in a way that is child-appropriate and will lead to discussions about how to help the children understand family situations and dynamics. He even included chapter questions at the end of the book to help foster these discussions.
With all of the pressure of family life and responsibilities, Vaughn is grateful for the support of his wife, Abby. “She constantly encouraged me to keep going and was always willing to read my latest revisions and offer advice on the narrative. I am so grateful for her support, and I couldn’t have done it without her,” he said.
Another huge support was his mother, Walterboro native Lillie Vaughn. He slowly released chapters to her throughout the writing process, and she offered feedback and encouragement along the way. “My mom is an excellent writer herself, and I have always been inspired by her storytelling,” said Vaughn.
“Room at the Table” was edited by his wife, Abby, and Hayley Clemmer, a friend and fellow graduate of the University of South Carolina Beaufort.
Vaughn said he hopes that a fostered or adopted child who puts his or her hands on this book will feel a sense of belonging while connecting to Joshua’s story. “I hope that a child that has never experienced being fostered or adopted learns from Joshua’s story and experiences empathy for those around them,” he said.
Vaughn said he plans to continue writing more books. As a matter of fact, he is currently working on a picture book that was inspired by his daughter, Addison Grace. “I’m am partnering with a very talented graphic artist, Breanna Matthews, and we are working through the storyboarding process now. I know that it is going to be a beautiful project and I’m excited to continue the process,” said Vaughn. “My author page can be found online at www.fb.me/justinvaughnbooks for anyone that is interested in hearing about ‘Room at the Table’ and my future projects.”