You might know Matthew Winner as a beloved school librarian and podcast host of The Children’s Book Podcast, Matthew in the Stacks, and KidLit These Days. It wasn’t surprising that A Kids Book About would snap him up to be their Head of Podcasts.
A Kids Book About is a publishing company with a mission: they make kids’ books that matter because kids are ready. And A Kids Book About: The Podcast helps to start these conversations.
A Kids Book About: The Podcast
A kids podcast about the things that matter, like Racism, Body Image, and Belonging. Each episode opens up the dialog we’ve begun in our groundbreaking A Kids Book About series. Created by folks who’ve been there. Honest. Important. Relevant. Start the conversation. We know you’re ready.
So let’s catch up with Matthew Winner. It’s only been a few months at his new position, but he’s been pretty busy!
1) Matthew Winner, you are the new Head of Podcasts at A KIDS BOOK ABOUT. Tell me all about A KIDS BOOK ABOUT! How do podcasts fit into this new company?
Hi, Mia! Thanks for having me on Pragmatic Mom! I always love when our paths cross.
Simply stated, at A Kids Book About we make books that matter. We know that kids have big questions and thoughts and ideas about the things going on in their world. We also know that they’re ready to talk about these things, even if their grownups might not be ready themselves. Each of our books is authentically voiced by an individual whose life experiences or values make them uniquely suited to author the book. The company launched in October of 2019 with A Kids Book About Racism and five other titles. Now we have 30+ books including an all-new A Little Book About board book series and more on the way. We’re a direct-to-consumer publisher made up of a small team of super awesome individuals all working tirelessly to center the things going on in the lives of kids ages 5-10+ and provide support to kids and grownups in starting tough conversations.
Honestly, it’s one of the most meaningful endeavors I’ve ever been a part of. (And my part only truly started in January of 2021!)
Now the company is growing and I’m so excited that podcasts are part of that vision. We’re creating a one-of-a-kind kids podcast network called A Kids Podcast About that will boast 10+ original shows by the end of 2021 with 150+ episodes across the shows. It’s ambitious and exciting and amazing. And all of the shows are made for kids (and sometimes by kids) with the same values and principles we apply to our books and, really, everything we do at A Kids Book About.
2) You’ve been creating wonderful podcasts at The Children’s Book Podcast. How do those podcasts differ from what you are doing at A KIDS BOOK ABOUT?
I’m so glad you and others have appreciated the work I’ve done in these past 8 years through the Children’s Book Podcast! I can still remember interviewing you and Nat Iwata about Sumo Joe!
The shows we’re creating differ in a number of ways, first and foremost, because they are being made explicitly for kids. We know that grownups will listen and many kids and grownups will enjoy listening together, whether that’s with family members at home, with a grownup on a car ride, or with a teacher in a classroom. But we’re also producing the shows to center the kid listener. We’re doing that through how we pace and structure shows and also through the sound design.
I host our flagship, A Kids Book About: The Podcast. That’s where listeners hear directly from our authors, with each episode focusing on a different A Kids Book About title. Listeners also contribute audio and are part of the conversation and discussion on these tough topics, which to date have included racism, anxiety, change, disabilities, sexual abuse, and anti-Asian hate, among many other episodes.
Our upcoming shows include a truth-finding investigation about facts, an active meditation podcast hosted by a certified kids and Kundalini yoga, meditation, and breath work expert and her 6-year-old son, a show centering the youth activists helping to further climate justice, and a podcast summer camp rich with adventure and wonder and community.
Every show we’re producing shares the goal of fostering an inviting space for kids to find themselves, to grow, and to connect.
So while the Children’s Book Podcast featured intimate interviews between children’s book authors and illustrators that listeners then got to listen in on, the shows we’re making at A Kids Podcast About have a much broader scope, looking to accompany kids in their exploration of the world.
3) Your new job must be very different from your two jobs previously as a full-time elementary school librarian and a podcaster. What’s a typical day look like now (if such a thing exists for you)?
As Head of Podcasts, I’m involved in every part of the podcasting process from bringing in potential hosts and conceptualizing new show ideas to working with our sound engineering team and working with others to consider how best to engage our listeners. It’s a role that I feel like I’ve been training for my whole life and it feels like I’ve gone from teaching a school full of children to now operating in front of an entire global classroom. It is so awesome!
My day-to-day changes based on what projects are in development and so I think I’ve never relied more on my agenda book to keep all of the tasks and projects straight. That said, I am blessed to have a terrific boss and partner in Jelani Memory, A Kids Book About founder and CEO. I feel seen and valued every day and I am immensely proud to be part of such an incredible team at this start-up. It’s nothing I ever could have predicted I’d be doing, and yet it’s also somehow everything I ever dreamed to do.
4) What are some things you are most proud of accomplishing so far at A KIDS BOOK ABOUT?
Oh my word! Too many things to name!
Here’s a top-of-mind list from my first 4 months with A Kids Book About:
– Seeing A Kids Book About: The Podcast chart on Apple Podcasts (#5 in the Kids & Family category)!
– Interviewing Evelyn Yang (author of A Kids Book About Sexual Abuse and wife of 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang) and truly feeling like I made a friend in our shared conversations about trauma.
– Hiring my first employee (Ari Mathae, associate producer).
– Partnering with a local HBCU to bring podcast production interns into full-time employment at A Kids Book About.
– Participating in a workshop with one of the GenderCool champions (Hunter Chinn-Raicht, author of A Kids Book About Being Non-Binary)
5) What are you working on now?
We’re gearing up for summer camp and getting ready to launch a handful of really exceptional shows.
But mostly what I want to tell you I’m working on is all the things I cannot share but cannot wait for you to hear!
It doesn’t surprise me that Matthew Winner is doing important work during this time when we all need information that can be relied upon for truth and accuracy and for bringing to light histories that have deliberately been buried. He continues to shine a light on children’s books. We are all the better for having his voice help us find our way on topics that may be difficult to discuss but help us to raise children willing and able to change the world.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.