Updated: Dec 21, 2022
Matthew: Welcome, everyone. I’m Matthew and this ever-evolving, shifting, changing space is and will be the Children’s Book Podcast.
I’m reviving the show and bringing new episodes to kids and classrooms early next year. But for now, I’m retracing origins in a retrospective that’s a bit self-indulgent, I’ll admit. But hopefully it’s also revealing of what roads led to the show as it stands today.
Now, you may have known the show as Let’s Get Busy, All The Wonders, The Children’s Book Podcast, Worth Noting… maybe I should just refer to it as a blend of all of those for now. Like…
Let’s Get All The Children’s Books Worth Noting on a Podcast.
No. That’s much too pretentious.
I’ll tell you what. You’re here. That’s what matters. No need to call it anything other than gratitude for time together.
Today… values. The things we make say a lot about the people who make them. Do you agree?
This is not actually something I thought about, until the day when I did. And then I didn’t stop thinking about it.
You are being exposed to my values every time you tune into an episode. And if those values align, the show connects, and you come back to hear more. If the values don’t align, we miss that connection, and maybe you stop listening altogether.
We’re going to wade into the waters today and see what we can stir up. Plus, we’re joined by a most-special guest: Kelly Yang.
I was just going about it, doing my podcast thing in those first few years of the show. I’d interview someone cool. I’d ask for their recommendations on who to interview next. And we grew the show like growing a family.
I wouldn’t trade that. It was secure. It was sincere. It was the way the show was meant to grow at that time.
But then, in 2017, I had the idea to start podcasting with my 5th graders. Most did not have a clue what a podcast is or was, but they loved that podcasts were the reason I knew so many of the authors of so many of the books they loved in our library.
And I loved speaking to new authors because they wrote the books that my students loved. Those kids really fueled everything right from the beginning.
That’s why I was caught off guard when I was showing a 5th grade class my website, that was set up to display the faces of the podcast guests. I like to incorporate headshots whenever I can because I think it’s important for kids to see the faces behind the stories they love.
What caught me off guard, though, was how different these faces were than those kids in my classroom.
I live in Maryland and I teach just outside of Baltimore. Our schools and school communities are rich in diversity, and the majority of the student population where I taught was made up of children of Color.
The school where I was teaching when this memory occurred had a population of students identifying at 37% Black or African American, 17% Asian, 17% Hispanic and 24% white. I know because I looked it up, because after this lesson, after finally seeing my students through the lens of the thing I was making, namely this podcast, I realized that my students and their families were grossly underrepresented in the reflections of my guest list.
[WINDOWS AND MIRRORS]
So what do you do when you realize that what you make does not accurately reflect what you value?
Let me say that in a different way.
What do you do when you find yourself uncomfortable with the story the thing you make is saying about you?
Answer: you change the story.
I started collecting lots and lots and lots of data. I used US Census data and county and school ethnicity data in order to set targets for representation on the show.
I read about diversity audits and explored statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education and so powerfully made accessible through the “Diversity In Children’s Books” infographic from Sarah Park Dahlen and David Hyuck.
I became intentional with every guest I invited on to the show, with consideration toward the windows and mirrors I was placing in front of my students, nodding to the work of Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop.
I acknowledged the platform I held through this podcast, and that power to shine a light on works and on storytellers who might too often be overlooked. That this show was giving a literal voice to those stories, those authors and illustrators, to those lived experiences.
And I looked to others to help show the way. Those blogs, resources, review sites, and professionals who were leading the conversations. I became and remain a student of their work. Edith Campbell. Dr. Debbie Reese. Cynthia Leitich Smith. Heidi Rabinowitz and the Book of Life podcast. The Brown Bookshelf. Latinx In Kidlit. Lindz Amer and Queer Kid Stuff. Disability in Kidlit. And on and one.
Being a student and acknowledging I am on a continual path of learning.
Walking into new spaces with humility and respect.
Always, always seeking opportunity for students and for all kids to be seen and known and loved and valued through the voices and the books featured on the show.
[KELLY YANG ON BANNED BOOKS]
I reached out to Kelly Yang a few weeks ago. She’s the author of Front Desk and many other exceptional books for children and young adults. We haven’t met personally, but she’s someone I admire and I hope she’ll join me for an interview sometime soon.
At the time, I was working on an episode of Worth Noting on banned books. That was just before parting ways with A Kids Co. and the episode was never completed.
And yet, the universe has a funny way with its grand plan. And Kelly’s message on banned books is the very message needed in this space.
Kelly: Hi, I'm Kelly Yang. I am the author of many children's books.
And to me, the biggest gift of reading is to gain empathy and understanding, to be able to step into another person's shoes and see the world from their eyes to get to know one another just a little bit better.
And that's why it is so terrifying when that possibility is threatened in the form of a book challenge or a book ban. It is so scary: the cost to all of us, our future, our nation, and most of all our children, because to see yourself reflected in the book is the greatest feeling in the world. And every child deserves to see themselves reflected.
Every child deserves to feel seen.
Matthew: I believe in children. And, like Kelly, I believe each child deserves the opportunity to feel seen, to feel valued, and to feel loved.
If what I’m making fails to do that, then it fails my values, my purpose, my “why.”
We do not have enough time on this earth to waste it on compromising our values.
This podcast has been changing over the past 9 years, and it changes still.
The new iteration of the Children’s Book Podcast will serve and honor where it comes from, but will walk a different path in where it’s going. And I cannot wait for the books we’ll celebrate, the voices we’ll amplify, and, most importantly, the hundreds of thousands of kids we will lift up together.
Because I know you’re here. And I’m counting on your support. It’s important to know who’s standing in your corner, ya know? Not just for me. But for those kids, too.
Together. We do this work together.
This podcast was written, edited, and produced by me, Matthew Winner.
Thank you to Kelly Yang for lending her voice on this episode. Check out Kelly’s books by going to kellyyang.com. I’ll put a link in the show notes.
Subscribe to The Children’s Book Podcast wherever podcasts are found, and leave us a rating or review when you do. That helps us out a whole lot because it helps the show get discovered by and recommended to new listeners.
Our music is by Podington Bear. Podcast hosting by Anchor.
We are a proud member of Kids Listen, the best place to discover the best in kids podcasts. Learn more at kidslisten.org.
Be well. And read on.
PART 1–HAVING STUDENTS ANALYZE OUR CLASSROOM LIBRARY TO SEE HOW DIVERSE IT IS - https://blog.leeandlow.com/2016/07/07/part-1-having-students-analyze-our-classroom-library-to-see-how-diverse-it-is/
Picture This: Diversity in Children’s Books 2018 Infographic - https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/picture-this-diversity-in-childrens-books-2018-infographic/
Dr. Laura M. Jimenez - https://booktoss.org/
Edith Campbell - https://edicottonquilt.com/
Dr. Debbie Reese - https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/
Cynthia Leitich Smith - https://cynthialeitichsmith.com/cynsations/
Heidi Rabinowitz - https://jewishbooks.blogspot.com/
The Brown Bookshelf - https://thebrownbookshelf.com/
Queer Kid Stuff - https://www.queerkidstuff.com/
Disability in Kidlit - http://disabilityinkidlit.com/?wref=bif
Latinx in Kidlit - https://latinosinkidlit.com/?wref=bif
We Are Kidlit Collective - https://wtpsite.wordpress.com/?wref=bif
Cool Stuff for Queer Kids - https://www.leewind.org/blog/
DISCLAIMER: Bookshop.org affiliate links provided for any book titles mentioned in the episode. Bookshop.org support independent book stores and also shares a small percentage of any sales made through this podcast back to me, which helps to fund production of this show.