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?
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 . . .