Who the heck are these podcasters who call themselves Kids Listen? In future weeks, you'll be hearing about science podcasts and music podcasts, but we'll start with a podcast for kids about literature: the Book Club for Kids.
The host and executive producer is public radio veteran Kitty Felde.
Book Club for Kids
by Kitty Felde
I’ve always had a passion for literature for kids. Maybe it was shelving all those books for all those years working at the East Compton branch of the LA County Library. Maybe it’s because my folks moved down the street from that library when I was old enough to write my name and get my own library card. Maybe it’s because I believe reading and writing are the key to success at anything in life. That’s why I created the Book Club for Kids podcast.
Book Club for Kids is a free, 20-minute show that features a conversation with a group of young readers about a middle grade novel. There’s an interview with the author and a taste of the book courtesy of a “celebrity reader.” Every show ends by asking the question, "What's your favorite book?"
Our target audience is middle grade readers – and their parents, teachers, and librarians. We target this age group because middle school years are critical for creating lifelong readers. An NEA study found that 70% of middle grade students read more than ten books a year. That number falls off the cliff when those same kids get to high school: less than half of 9th through 12th graders read ten books a year.
Our "celebrity" readers have included politicians like U.S. Senator Angus King of Maine, and NPR personalities like Morning Edition host Renee Montaigne and Peter Sagal of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.” We’ve also had the Secretary of Education, an NBA player, and even the FBI agent in charge of protecting us from weapons of mass destruction. Our writers include last year’s Newbery Award winner Kwame Alexander, fan favorite Victoria Aveyard, and “Foyle’s War” creator Anthony Horowitz.
We’re based in Washington, DC and have taped shows at schools and independent bookstores all over the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. But we’ve also taken the show on the road to California, New Jersey, and Illinois. We’ve taped live shows at Virginia’s Fall for the Book Festival and the Gaithersburg Book Festival. We’ll be live at the Baltimore Book Festival and will be talking to kids at the Nantucket Book Festival and the National Book Festival. In 2017, look for us at the LA Times Festival of Books.
Book Club for Kids began as a segment on my public radio talk show on Southern California Public Radio, KPCC. It was inspired by conversations I had with young readers at the LA Times Festival of Books. These kids told me they were trapped in mom's carpool, forced to listen to public radio, desperate to hear young voices or conversations about things that interested them. I asked them what they wanted to hear and “books!” was the response. “Count me in!” I told them.
And so once a month, we threw the adults out of the studio and invited middle school kids in to take over the microphones. Book Club for Kids was born! The Southern California Literacy Council awarded the show its Literacy in Media award. We became a regular feature for half a decade at the LA Times Festival of Books, taping live shows onstage. And we expanded to cable television, episodes that are available on YouTube.
In July, we celebrate our first year as a podcast. It was last July when the Book Club for Kids podcast launched, available on Stitcher, Soundcloud, iTunes, or online. We even have a free newsletter for parents, teachers, and librarians offering tips to turn reluctant readers into lifelong book lovers.
The biggest challenge has been getting the word out. I spend a lot of time explaining to kids what a podcast is and to their parents how to subscribe. Getting middle grade parents to write a review on iTunes is a real challenge! I feel very fortunate to be a founding member of Kids Listen, finding a community of like-minded podcasters who believe providing excellent audio to younger ears is vital.
About Kitty Felde
Kitty fell into public radio when she realized Vin Scully would never retire and she'd never become a Dodger play-by-play announcer. In her decades on the air, she hosted a daily talk show for a decade, covered high profile trials from OJ to Bosnian war crimes, and most recently, served as Capitol Hill correspondent. When her station closed all of its political bureaus, she asked herself: “what was the thing you loved best about your radio career?” The answer was easy: Book Club for Kids.
When not reading books or talking to kids about books, Kitty writes award-winning plays that have been produced around the world. She just signed with an agent for her first middle grade novel set on Capitol Hill. Her husband Tad Daley is also a writer – tackling topics like nuclear non-proliferation and the abolition of war. Kitty can dance like Jane Austen and even sews her own ball gowns.