For Parents

Interview with Jed Doherty of the Reading With Your Kids podcast!

Hello Mixed-Up Filers!

How are you all? We are in for a treat today!

If you’re involved in kidlit, then you need to know Jed Doherty, the man behind the great, Reading with Your Kids, podcast, which has featured quite a few of your Mixed-Up FIles team! If you’re not listening, you should be. Jed is a gracious supporter of books and reading and has invited many authors on his podcast.

JR: Hi Jed, and thanks for joining us!

JD: Hey Jonathan, Thanks for having me, and thanks for the kind words about my Reading With Your Kids Podcast. Doing the podcast is a lot of fun. I get to meet some great authors like yourself, and I have made lots of new friends.

 

JR: Let’s start at the beginning. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

JD: My most important role is being a dad and a husband. My beautiful wife and I have two amazing kids, who are now wonderful adults. We have also hosted a number of international students in our home, and they have become part of our family.

JR: That’s fantastic. I know that for many years now, you’ve traveled the country, going to different schools and performing magic and speaking out against bullying. How did you get into that?

JD: That was kind of an accident. When I was in high school and college my goal was to become a social worker. After college I worked for many years as a social worker, mostly working with kids who had been arrested, most of them arrested for hurting people very badly. It was my job to help them learn how to deal with their anger and sadness in a better way, without hurting themselves or others, to help them learn how to make better choices. It was a hard job. I really loved doing it. But after doing it for almost ten years I needed to make a change.

I decided to leave social work. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I did know that I still wanted to work with kids and to help them learn how to make good choices. But how? So I said a prayer and asked God for guidance. After I said that prayer I sat at my table and opened the newspaper. The very first story I saw told me that Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus was in Boston and that they were having auditions for clowns that day. I looked up to the sky and said to God “You’re kidding me right?’

I went to the audition and had a wonderful time. I was in the center ring of the circus, in the Boston Garden, the same building that I had been in hundreds of times to watch the Bruins and Celtics play, and I was making people laugh. And that filled my heart with joy. I knew right then and there that I was meant to make people laugh.

I didn’t run away with the circus that day. I had this idea that I could create shows that I could present in schools that talked to kids about things like bullying, saying no to drugs and saying yes to exercise and reading. Some people said I was crazy, that there was no way I could make this dream come true. But I believed I could do it.

I started studying things like mime and dance and magic. Just a few months after that audition I started doing shows in the Boston Public Schools. It made me so happy to be able to make kids laugh and smile while also inspiring them to make good choices.

It took a while to learn how to make a living as a performer. But with a lot of support from my beautiful wife I was able to make my dream come true.

JR: That’s really an amazing story. From there, what made you get interested in kidlit?

JD: I love to read. Books are magical things that can take you to distant countries, or help you travel back in time, or inspire you to create a whole new future.

And I especially loved reading with my kids. We loved all of the Dr Seuss books, I think my son’s favorite book was Captain Underpants, and my daughter loved Tomi dePaola’s Clown of God.

I realized that one of the reasons our family is so close is that we spent so much time reading together, talking about the stories. Those conversations made it easier to talk about other things in life.

I wanted to create a podcast for parents, to introduce them to great books they can read with their kids no matter how old their kids are.

JR: I agree. Reading with your kids is important, regardless of age. How did you transition into the RWYK podcast?

JD: Just like I did when I started to perform I knew I didn’t know how to be a podcaster. So I started reading books on podcasting, talking to other podcasters, learning as much as I could. And of course, the most important thing about trying to make any dream come true is to actually try. To take a chance.

 

JR: You’ve been very generous about getting authors from all sorts of genres on your program, including me, for which I’m grateful. Tell us about the podcast itself. What is your mission with it?

JD: The mission is to inspire parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and others to spend more time reading with kids, and talking with kids about the stories. I truly believe reading with our kids is the beginning of a life long conversation. I hope that when families read together they will want to start to cook together, and go hiking together and do all sorts of things together.

 

JR: How long did it take for it to start to be noticed?

JD: Creating this podcast has been a lot of fun. One of the things I am so happy about is that the authors who have been on the show are very supportive of the show and each other. They have helped promote. That helped lots of authors learn about the show very quickly, so within a couple of months folks in the kidlit community started to notice the show.

Our audience really started to grow after five or six months.

 

JR: Recently, you’ve had on two major celebrities, Levar Burton, for which I was gushing, and Candace Cameron Bure, for which my daughter was. You did a great job with those interviews. How did that come about, and how did that feel when you knew it was going to happen?

JD: I loved speaking with both of those guests. Candace Cameron Bure was so much fun. Her book company actually reached out to me and asked if she could be a guest on the show. It took me about a half of a second to say yes.

LeVar Burton was also a lot of fun. I have been a fan of his work forever. I remember watching him play Kunta Kinte in the television series Roots when I was in high school. And I was a huge fan of Star Trek The Next Generation. And when I became a dad one of the show my kids and I watched was Reading Rainbow.

The inspiration to have him on the show came from my son. He called me one day and said “you should ask LeVar Burton to be on your show.” I thought that is a crazy idea, but since I have always been a fan of crazy ideas I gave it a show. I did a little research on line, found a contact on his LeVar Burton Kids website and sent a request. A couple of days later a member of his team wrote back and said that LeVar would be happy to be on the show.

JR: If authors would like to appear on your podcast, how can they go about doing it?

JD: Easy, they can visit our web site, Readingwithyourkids.com, click on the contact link and let us know about their book.

 

JR: Anything special lined up for 2019?

JD: It is going to be tough to top 2018. We did have great guests like LeVar and Candace, and we had our amazingly Spooky MiddleGrade Christmas Special that you were a part of. I am still amazed that you and your Spooky Middle Grade friends were able to create a spooky and fun original story for that show, and the swerve you threw in at the end was fabulous.

In 2019 we are going to strive to have an episode devoted to STEM fields each week. And we are going to grow from four episodes each week to five. And in just a few weeks we will be in Los Angeles to attend the iHeartRadio Podcast Awards, our show has been nominated for the Best Kids and Family Podcast Award.

JR: Incredible news. That Spooky story we did was also so much fun for all of us. How can people follow you on social media?

We have a Facebook page, and folks can connect with my personal Facebook page. On Twitter you can find me @jedliemagic and on Instagram we are @magicjedlie.

 

JR: Jed, I’d like to thank you so much for joining us today, and wish you much continued success with the RWYK podcast!

 

Well, until next time my Mixed-Up friemds . . .

Jonathan

Literary Activities for African American History Month

African American History Month starts next week, and schools across the country have a variety of activities planned to celebrate. In addition to being a middle grade writer and blogger, I am the PTA President at my kids’ elementary school, and so I’ve had the good fortune to be involved in our school’s planning for this special time. Of course, reading had to be a big part of it!

We decided to welcome parents into the classroom to read works by and about African Americans. First, we met with principal, and discussed our mutual goal of enhancing kids’ understanding of the breadth of the contribution of African Americans to American history. Often, kids point to the same five or seven famous African Americans, without a sense of how many more people have shaped our society in a broad range of ways. We then put together a list of books that included biography, fiction, poetry, and more, all by or about African Americans. We worked with the librarian to find out which of those titles our library already contains, and created an Amazon wishlist of the remaining. We will send that out to parents, to see if anyone would like to contribute. The librarian will collect the selected books onto a few shelves of the library for parents to choose from when they come in to do their reading at the appointed time.

As we planned, we came across a number of other ideas and resources for those putting together literary activities for African American History Month. Here are a few:

I hope this African American History Month is filled with fun, discovery, and plenty of great books!

Middle-Grade Meets the Moon

By the time this post goes live on Monday, January 21st,  we will have all experienced (or slept through) the Blood Supermoon Lunar Eclipse of 2019.  The eclipse is, of course, the passing of the moon through Earth’s shadow. The “blood” comes from the crimson and oranges colors that can be seen, and “supermoon” refers to the how large the moon appears due to its relative proximity to Earth.

NASA has prepared some very useful tools for parents and teachers, and even though the event has passed, everyone will be talking about it. What better time to investigate further? Look for NASA’s Teachable Moments for the 2019 total lunar eclipse here  and lunar eclipse moon lessons guide for teachers is available here.

And, what better time to bring the moon into our to-be-read lists?

Let’s make a list of middle-grade books that capture our imaginations using the mystery of the moon – at least in their titles. I’ll start. Please comment below with additions to this list!

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin is a Newbery Honor winner and it received the 2010 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature.

From Indiebound:  In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life’s questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family’s fortune.

 

 

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool is the 2011 Newbery Medal winning middle-grade tale of Abilene Tucker and a Kansas town called Manifest. Abilene navigates Manifest’s present and past mysteries in order to find the answers she’s been looking for.

This is one of my favorite middle-grade novels.

 

 

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle, proud of her country roots and the “Indian-ness in her blood,” travels from Ohio to Idaho with her eccentric grandparents. Along the way, she tells them of the story of Phoebe Winterbottom, who received mysterious messages, who met a “potential lunatic,” and whose mother disappeared.

As Sal entertains her grandparents with Phoebe’s outrageous story, her own story begins to unfold—the story of a thirteen-year-old girl whose only wish is to be reunited with her missing mother.

 

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill is the winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal.  Wait. I’m seeing a pattern here. Are you? Wow! There are a lot of Newbery books with “moon” in the title!  Anyway, this book didn’t stop at the Newbery. It has racked up Best Book of 2016 Awards from School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Chicago Public Library, Entertainment Weekly and New York Public Library. Filled with mystery and wonder, magic and suspense, this is a book comes along once in blue moon. (I had to. I’m sorry.)

 

I haven’t read The Moon Within yet, but only because it isn’t out yet! The pub date for the Aida Salazar’s The Moon Within is February 26, 2019.  But, what a cover! WOW!

From Indiebound:Celi Rivera’s life swirls with questions. About her changing body. Her first attraction to a boy. And her best friend’s exploration of what it means to be genderfluid.

But most of all, her mother’s insistence she have a moon ceremony when her first period arrives. It’s an ancestral Mexica ritual that Mima and her community have reclaimed, but Celi promises she will NOT be participating. Can she find the power within herself to take a stand for who she wants to be? 

 

 

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a firm believer that picture books belong in middle-grade readers’ hands. So, although this is a picture book, I’m featuring Margaret and the Moon.   Written by Dean Robbins and Illustrated by Lucy Knisley, it is the true story of Margaret Hamilton, whose code writing for NASA helped put a man on the moon.

 

 

 

The Far-Out Guide to the Moon was written by Mary Kay Carson, who is one the Mixed-Up Files STEM Tuesday contributors.  A wealth of information and facts, the book makes an excellent addition to middle-grade reading lists.  Strike now while the lunar interest is hot and everyone is talking about the eclipse we had last night!

 

 

 

 

What titles would you add to our Middle-Grade Meets the Moon list? Drop them in the comments below!