A “Lighter Side Up” Q&A:
Getting to Know
I am honored to be a stop
on the Blog + Pod Tour
in celebration of…
It is no accident when someone like Matthew Winner achieves what is akin to royalty status in the world of school libraries and children’s literature. But he is not the type king who rules with an iron fist. Instead, he leads with a passionate spirit.
When I first became aware of Matthew, through Twitter, and eventually became a true fan of his “Let’s Get Busy” podcasts (now at All the Wonders), I had no idea just how much this man accomplishes. He is one BUSY Librarian! The truth is, he’s more of a “jack of all trades,” as he puts it. (I call it multi-talented and driven 😉 ) That versatility has enabled him to touch the lives of an ever-growing, wide variety of people, including mine. His expressive personality and exceptional insight shines through with fervor and enthusiasm in all aspects of his life: as a Teacher-Librarian, a Media Specialist, a podcast interviewer, and as a husband and father. His genuine interest in and caring about people is evident—he naturally “connects” with whomever he engages, whether it’s a child in a classroom, a colleague face-to-face and on Twitter, or a Kidlit professional through Skype.
Like a buoyant raft, Matthew floats on a sea of possibilities. His combination of thinking “outside the box,” his passion for teaching and affinity for technology makes for “perfect storm” impact in children’s education, and his contributions have not gone unnoticed! In 2013, Matthew was honored by the White House as a “Champion of Change.” He was also an Honoree for the 2013 Bammy Awards. And it’s obvious his colleagues and students hold him in high esteem.
Through the week of “World Read Aloud Day” he, along with Shannon Miller and others, plan classroom-to-classroom Skype sessions during which favorite books are read aloud to each other by students and teachers. Need book suggestions? Matthew has a booklist of his favorite “start of school” books to read aloud.
His innovative thinking also lends to initiating effective methods to increase variety in reading such as School Library Month Shelf Challenge. He is also involved with a movement near and dear to my heart: International Dot Day. He and Shannon, along with close to 2 million participants, celebrate creativity worldwide!
Matthew is a self-proclaimed “gamer,” lending him first hand insight on how to use video game technology in valuable ways in the classroom. He eagerly incorporates that technology into his teaching, which he shares with others through presentations such as “Why Video Games Matter: The Gaming Brain and Knowing Our Learners.” He has also authored a book along those lines: Teach Math with the Wii. This affinity naturally draws him to Wandoo Planet—computer software designed to increase reading proficiency by targeting a child’s interests. Evanced, the maker of Wandoo Planet, also makes other educational computer games. Discussion about Evanced and Wandoo Planet is content on Matthew’s podcasts.
Matthew’s personality affords him a talent for interviewing, moderating and presenting which I believe stems from his gift as a genuinely- interested conversationalist. It is this key ingredient which lends to the appeal of his successful “Let’s Get Busy Podcasts.” These casts feature assorted industry professionals throughout the world of Kidlit and can be accessed through the LGB site, iTunes and All the Wonders.
This ability also led to his moderating an esteemed panel at the famed bookstore, Books of Wonder in Manhattan. The “Path to Peace” panel included: Author Ilyasah Shabazz (the daughter of Malcolm X), Arun Gandhi (the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi), author Bethany Hegedus, and illustrator Evan Turk.
As a successful Kidlit podcaster, Matthew served on a panel at New York Public Library’s “Children’s Literary Salon,” its subject being podcasting in the world of Kidlit. The event was recorded and can also be enjoyed at the “Let’s Get Busy” site or on iTunes.
When I first thought of people I might like to interview for this blog, Matthew Winner was one of the first people to come to mind and I’m sure you can see why! He is certainly someone who’s “making his mark” in the worlds of Kidlit and children’s education. I want to know more about the man behind all this activity and inspiration and I’m sure you do, too. I’m honored and very excited to be part of Matthew’s “100th ‘Let’s Get Busy’ Podcast” celebration, with him having taken the time out to share with us some of his “Lighter Side” and more!
So, now that we’re settled in…
When you were a kid and weren’t busy with schoolwork or chores, which were your…
…favorite pastimes? Games? Toys? TV shows? Movies?
- I loved playing Nintendo and one of my favorite memories from 4th and 5th grade was pretending to be Nintendo characters battling it out on the playground with my friends. I was always Mario or Megaman. Now that I teach it makes me feel like I must have been even nerdier than I realized if I was still playing those games at age 9-10, but I bet we were having more fun on that playground than anyone else. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ducktales were my go-to TV shows.
DM: Ah, Matthew, you brought me right back to when my son, Paul, was little with Mario, the Turtles and Ghostbusters. Fun times! And I’m thinking you weren’t nerdy so much as doing what made you happy without concerning yourself with others’ opinions 🙂 An early indication of your obvious strength of character!
As an adult?
- I play video games a whole lot still and love getting into “Mario Kart 8” tournaments with my author and illustrator pals. I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, but we stream Doctor Who and Top Chef all the time. I also listen to a ton of podcasts including RadioLab, This American Life, The Picturebooking Podcast, Nerdist, Meet the Composer, and the Thrilling Adventure Hour.
DM: Of course, now I’m totally curious as to whom you’re gaming with! 😉 Though I was hooked on Atari’s Space Invaders, and then Galaxian (the late 70s—yes, I’m that old lol), I now, on occasion, only play a few “low-action” games online like Battleship or Pizza Palace on Webkinz, and Color Columns on Highlightskids.com. I used to love Boxerjam games, too! (OK, Matthew, I can hear you snickering lol). And now you gave me (us) a LOT of podcasts to check out, so thanks for that, but I don’t know how I’ll pull myself from LGB!
Some of the most vivid memories from childhood are favorite books. Which ones are the most memorable for you?
- Scuffy the Tugboat and Tootles were two Golden Books that my dad says he read to me all the time. And he must have read them a lot, because every time we talk about my early reading he always brings up those two books. Ten Apples Up On Top was also a book that never got old for me.
DM: It’s amazing how often people will cite Golden Books! Don’t you just love seeing them still donning a rack at bookstores? They’re like little, instant time machines, along with Dr. Seuss books. I’ve never read “Scuffy” or “Tootles,” but now I’m going to make a point of looking for them 🙂
I know my pile of books-to-be-read is high. Yours may be, too! Which book/s are you reading now?
- Dan Yaccarino’s Zorgoochi Intergalactic Pizza: Delivery of Doom is at the top of my pile as well as Michelle Knudsen’s Evil Librarian. I’m also reading new picture books and graphic novels constantly.
DM: Oh, Dan Yaccarino is amazing, and I’ve heard such good stuff about Evil Librarian! I need to put these on my TBR, too! And in your podcasts, your knowledge and passion about pretty much everything in the KidLit World is so obvious, that you’re constantly reading doesn’t surprise me at all! I could easily imagine you with a book clipped to your belt—like a pager—only the book is really a “pager” 😉
As a reader, so much of the experience is to vicariously walk in another’s shoes. If you could be the main character in a story, which character would you be?
- I would choose to be Frog from Arnold Lobel’s A Year With Frog and Toad. To live in that world and to have a friend like Toad would certainly be story-worthy.
DM: And worth croaking about 😉 The “Frog and Toad” books are definitely special.
For anyone who’s had exposure to cartoons, whether through television, movies or comics, we can’t help having one or more favorite cartoon characters. Which were—and are—your favorites?
- Leonardo of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” Hands down. He’s a clear thinker and good leader. He has two awesome katana blades. I wanted to be Leonardo for so many reasons. Now I see Finn of “Adventure Time” and can’t help but want to live in that world. I love that the writing is so unhinged and imaginative. I imagine my adventures would be most epic!
DM: Leonardo was definitely the “man” in charge. I was always partial to Michelangelo. Pizza anyone? 😉 I’ve never even heard of “Adventure Time,” let alone seen it, so I’m realizing just how much I need to catch up with! Thanks for mentioning that, Matthew 🙂
Though every minute of the day is a precious one, some tend to be more treasured than others—the times we most look forward to. When is your favorite time/s of day?
- 3:47pm on Mondays thru Fridays. That’s the time I get home from work and get to see my wife and son before Aimee begins teaching piano lessons. I am married to a really amazing woman and my kid is awesome. Knowing that they’re at home waiting for me is a gift I look forward to daily.
DM: What a great response, Matthew. I got choked up over the beauty of a man who realizes how blessed he is in the most important aspect of life.
I happen to be a Disney fanatic, to say the least. Not everyone is, but many people have visited Disney World. If you have, which are your favorite Disney World attractions? If not, which were your favorite carnival and boardwalk games and rides? Feel free to answer both! 🙂
- As a kid my favorite Disney World attraction was Journey Into Imagination, probably mostly because I loved Figment, the purple dragon. The Haunted Mansion’s “growing” portraits are also something I’ve managed to never forget. It’s amazing how much a memory can stick with you, and experiencing a room growing taller to reveal the unfortunate demise of each of the portrait figures is something I can still picture vividly.
DM: Oh, wow, Matthew! Journey Into Imagination was my favorite, too! I LOVE Figment and even bought a puppet, plus had “One Little Spark” on my answering machine for the longest time 🙂 I couldn’t believe I found this video of the old ride, though it’s a touch different than when I went in 1983, shortly after it opened. (It’s completely different now!) I hope you enjoy the revisit!
Time spent with family is something to be cherished, from snuggling while sharing a favorite book to meal time to a camping trip. What family activities are your favorites?
- My 4-year-old son has recently gotten into playing video games and his hand-eye coordination is pretty impressive. We love playing “Mario Kart 8” and “Lego City Undercover” together. But we have the most fun when we’re playing outside in the yard or on the lawnmowers at Home Depot. His imagination is off the wall and I love being a part of his play every chance I get. There has been many-a-bath-time when the water has gone cold from us playing too long with his bucket of dinosaurs and all of their secret lives as scuba divers, high divers, and karate dancers.
DM: It’s not surprising to hear your son’s developing into a gamer, too! I can picture the fun at Home Depot on lawnmowers—the ones you ride, I’m assuming. Next best thing to a backhoe, is my guess 😉 And I’m sure that, along with cold water (there’s something about bath time that’s so much fun), fingers became as pruned and wrinkly as the scuba-diving dinosaurs 🙂 Now I need to google “karate dancers.”lol
Can we ever say enough about the importance of music and its integral role in our lives? I can’t imagine life without it! I find it very difficult to narrow down my list of favorites, but there are always those musical artists and songs that bubble to the surface anytime I’m asked. For you, which musical artists and songs often rise to the top?
- Coldplay is always on my playlist. So is Fleet Foxes. I’ve also been into Milo Green’s self-titled album recently.
DM: Matthew, I can often be very “behind the times,” so admittedly was not familiar with any of these artists I certainly have to thank you for introducing me to Coldplay! LOVE this!!!
“A Sky Full of Stars” from the “Ghost Stories” album:
You have many talents we, the public audience, know about, but chances are you have others! Do you have any unusual or unknown talents you care to share with us?
- Hmmm. I wonder what people actually know about me already. Let’s see. I play guitar and write songs. My friend and I wrote and played together for several years under the name Magnet South. I love doing housework, especially when I can see the progress I’ve made. Washing dishes. Cleaning and folding laundry. Taking care of yard work. Sweeping. Mopping. Basically, you name it and I’m all about it. It’s also a great time for me to listen to my podcasts, so that might be why I’m so drawn to the work.
DM: I do remember you mentioning, on at least one podcast, that you’re a musician. Great name—Magnet South 🙂 And I’m sure Aimee must LOVE that you love doing housework! What a perk! 🙂 Those are the kinds of activities when audio is perfect. It’s while I’m doing artwork that I get to listen to hours of YOURS! 😀
There’s something very satisfying about sandwiching something between two pieces of bread. Which sandwich/es do you eat most often?
- The only time, oddly, that I ever eat sandwiches is when I go to Panera Bread and that’s solely because I like to dip my sandwich into my soup. My go-to there is the Chipotle Chicken Panini (hold the tomato) with a bowl of chicken noodle soup.
DM: This sounds heavenly! It’s been quite a while for me, but I’m thinking it may be time for a visit to Panera 😉
When that sugar craving strikes, which candy bar/s would you storm the convenience store to buy?
- I keep an extra dark chocolate bar from our local organic grocer in a safe place at all times. When I get a craving, I snap off a corner of the Ecuadorian dark. But I always have to make sure I ration the bar to make it last the whole week.
DM: Oh, you’re good! I’m thinking having more than one bar a week, now and then, might not be all that bad 😉 I know dark chocolate is the healthier choice, but I can’t break from my milk chocolate!
I’m a lover of quotes, from the silly to the sublime! Do you have any favorites?
- “You’re killin’ me, Smalls.”
DM: Oh, yes!!! One of my favorites from movies! GREAT choice! lol
It’s common to be drawn to more than one profession. Other than yours, which profession would you like to attempt? Never attempt?
- I am currently attempting writing for children. I would like to attempt being involved in some way with developing a video game. I would never like to attempt any sort of job that involves too great a level of predictability. Those same-day-in-and-day-out professions do not suit me well.
DM: A creative man in every way. No wonder you have such an affinity for our beloved International Dot Day! And I’ve long had the sneaking suspicion you’re going to be an outstanding kidlit author 🙂
Time travel is a popular genre, probably because most of us have wondered what it would be like to live in a time other than our own. Given the chance to experience any time in history, in which era and whose company would you choose to be?
- I would choose to spend Yesterday with my wife, whenever yesterday is. We get so little time together as it is. Being able to travel back in time to have a little more time together would be the best. Better, even, than hanging out with C.S. Lewis or Madeline L’Engle.
DM: Matthew, your comment sparks the thought of the sentiment behind the movie “About Time” in which the main character comes to realize he doesn’t have to relive moments again to experience them better or more fully, but to appreciate each moment to its full as it happens 🙂 To me, you’re a man with his priorities straight and his heart in the right place 🙂
Matthew, your personality and temperament are perfect for teaching children. When was it you knew you wanted to be a teacher? What is it about teaching you find most enjoyable and fulfilling?
- I suppose I’ve always had fun working with children, but it wasn’t really until starting college (as an English major, no less) that I realized I might have some talent for teaching children as a fulltime job and career. I had been working at a before-and-after school care and grew increasingly into the interests of the kids and engaging them in new information. This just sort of expanded from there.
DM: From everything I’ve gathered, I can’t help but believe this is the path you were meant to follow, and I’m sure there are a lot of grateful children (and parents) who would agree!
I know your wife, Aimee, is a teacher also. Did you meet in college? And other than her appearance (I’ve heard you call her “beautiful” more than once 🙂 ), what traits drew you to her? What are the positives (and negatives?) of you both being teachers?
- I met Aimee when I interned at her school (GASP! Scandalous!). It was her first year teaching (she’s a general music teacher) and I interned for a portion of the year in a 1st grade classroom. In order to earn volunteer hours (and out of interest) I offered to help her direct the school musical. By opening night sparks were flying that we could no longer ignore. I think I was drawn to her because she saw me for who I was and for what was feeding my passions. The best part of both being teachers is sharing the same schedule and the same vacation days. The worst part is that we have such limited time to spend together between Aimee teaching piano to help supplement our income and me having so much take-home grading and planning. But such is life. We work hard to make time for one another.
DM: I love this “meet cute” with the school musical having been the catalyst for you two to “make beautiful music” together 🙂 I hope your lives develop in a way that will allow you to spend more and more time with each other.
Your son, Jonah, is now 4 years old and you have another on the way. Congratulations! Becoming a parent impacts your life in ways you can’t truly comprehend ‘til it happens. As a parent, what has Jonah brought into your life?
- Jonah is everything to me. He’s taught me so much about myself and what kind of parent I’m meant to be (which is to say, an AWESOME one!). He’s just a cool kid and I’m thankful that I get to love on him daily and be loved by him and that I get to make his life awesome.
DM: We can find fulfillment through a variety of things in life, but there really is nothing as fulfilling as being a parent. Like you, I grew as a person in ways I couldn’t have foreseen, through the gift of being a parent. Lucky us!
Matthew, you already know I’m a huge fan of your “Let’s Get Busy” podcasts. You and your guests (some of them also being friends of mine) are the perfect company for me while I’m doing artwork! I also know that many of your esteemed guests are fans of yours 🙂 Can you tell us when you first got the idea to do them? And now that you’re a seasoned podcaster, airing your 100th episode, how have things changed since your first podcast?
- I first got the idea to do a kidlit podcast because of all of the great conversations I (and my librarian pals) have had with authors and illustrators. Capturing some of those moments to share with the rest of the world seemed really important. So, taking cues from the Nerdist podcast, an idea took shape in my brain to have a weekly chat that was informal and unstructured, allowing the conversation to go where it wants. Travis Jonker, of the 100 Scope Notes blog, gave me just the right encouragement at just the right time and, not even a week later, I was off recording my first episode. Since then I’ve gotten more comfortable in my interviewing skills and a little more confident in asking guests onto the podcast. I’m still trying to get over the whole “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!” (cue the Wayne’s World reference) thing of talking to those names and faces who I adore so much in this kidlit community, but I’d like to think that little bit of nervousness actually works in my favor when it comes to being genuine and enthusiastic toward my guests.
DM: I’m glad to hear you’re humble enough to think you’re not worthy, but I can attest that you most definitely are! I’m sure you have a hard time swallowing that many of the people you interview are fans of YOURS! lol I’m SO glad you were inspired and encouraged to do the podcasts. It’s an undertaking that I believe is truly worthwhile. The enjoyment they bring to me and so many others is priceless and I am grateful!
You were asked to moderate the “Path to Peace” panel held at Books of Wonder in March 2014. Can you please tell us a bit about how you felt having been asked, what it was like meeting people connected to such legendary figures, and any thoughts you would like to share about what had to be an amazing experience?
- Shay at Books of Wonder was the person who asked me to moderate the panel and since has become a really good pal of mine. They of course have panels all the time at BoW, but it was really special to be in the famous bookstore mentioned so many times by guests of the podcast. It’s a magical space and I was honored to be invited to join their event, much less to be speaking with such incredible talents! It was incredible to just be in the room while Bethany, Even, Arun, and Ilyasah were sharing their stories. Quite an out-of-body experience.
DM: I know I was moved by so much of what they said and you were a big part of that. You ask just the right questions 🙂
When you were named a White House “Champion of Change,” I can only imagine you were shocked. What are your feelings about receiving such an honor, and what was your experience like that day at the White House?
- It was a tremendous honor to be invited to the White House as part of their “Champions of Change” program. Even more after being told that I was the first school librarian to be invited into the program. That year was a culmination of a lot of projects for me, including being recognized by Library Journal as a “Mover & Shaker” for my work with engaging students in the math classroom through the use of video games. Everything was so well scripted at the event that really all I had to do was show up and share my thoughts on gaming. And also NOT let the fact that I was in the White House completely and utterly freak me out 😉 It was another great day to have Aimee by my side.
DM: Wow, and to also be the FIRST librarian invited? I didn’t know that! Even more to be impressed by! I’m so glad Aimee could share that with you, too 🙂
Note: This entire video is interesting if you have the time to watch. Matthew speaks at the 35:00-min. mark for about 4 min., then participates in the Q&A segment following:
And, of course, I save my favorite question for last! In the world of Harry Potter, there is a magical room hidden within the walls of Hogwarts known as the Room of Requirement. What would be in your Room of Requirement?
- I’m going to take a cue from one of my favorite children’s songs which was written by Raffi and tell you that “All I really need is a song in my heart, food in my belly, and love in my family.” Give me a guitar, a burrito from Chipotle, and my wife and son (and daughter-to-be) and I’ve got all I need.
DM: Then I’m thinking your Room of Requirement is your living room, as is 😀
Matthew, thank you VERY much for being so generous with your time, and allowing us to enjoy your company in this way. But, before you go, there’s something I need to tell you. I realize there’s a good chance you may already know this vital information, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. There’s simply no way around it. I must tell you because it’s not worth taking the chance. OK, are you sitting down? deep breath Here goes wipes brow… Though in this world you go by the name of Matthew C. Winner, I have been informed by Professor Poopypants that, in the world of silly you are known as… Are you sure you can handle this? OK. …you are known as Pinky Chucklebuns! Actually, now that I think about it, that’s just as fitting! runs for cover
FOR MORE INTERESTING INFO ON MATTHEW WINNER:
- Matthew’s blog
- Library Journal: Movers & Shakers 2013—Matthew C. Winner
- Library Journal: Up Close with Librarian Matthew C. Winner
CONNECT WITH MATTHEW:
- VIDEO featuring Matthew in action, with fellow teachers commenting on his impact at their school and in education. (4 min.)
- GOOGLE ROCKS VIDEO hosted by Librarian Linda Lindsay for World Read Aloud Day featuring Matthew Winner along with School Librarian Jody Brown, Technology Coordinater Michael Fricano II, Scholl Librarian, Michelle Colte, and a high school student (at that time), Rosie. (28 min.)
- WEBINAR podcast, Earth Pals: A TEDxElementary Project with Sherry Gick and Matthew Winner (53 min.) *This page contains MANY informative links! This project led to Matthew and Sherry being awarded the ISTE 2013 Librarians Network Technology Innovation Award.
THE OTHER AMAZING SITES also CELEBRATING:
- WED., Nov. 19 Picturebooking Podcast with Nick Patton
- FRI., Nov. 21 THE 100TH EPISODE of “Let’s Get Busy”!
- SAT., Nov. 22 The Library Fanatic with Sherry Gick
- SUN., Nov. 23 Laurie Ann Thompson
- MON., Nov. 24 100 Scope Notes with Travis Jonker
- TUES., Nov. 25 LGBPodcast via McSpedden Elementary Library blog with Nancy Jo Lambert
- THUR., Nov. 27 Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast with Julie Danielson
- FRI., Nov. 28 Brain Burps About Books with Katie Davis
- SAT., Nov. 29 LGB Podcast via Aimee Winner
- MON., Dec. 1 A Fuse #8 Production with Betsy Bird
- TUES., Dec. 2 LGBPodcast via Carter Higgins
- WED., Dec. 3 Pretty Good for a Girl blog (interviewed by Louise, the main character in Kelly Light‘s debut picture book, Louise Loves Art)
- WED., Dec. 6 GreenRowBooks blog with Beth Panageotou
THANK YOU, FRIENDS, FOR VISITING and I hope you have some comments and questions for Matthew!…