So we’ve come to the end of the series from Concept to Completion. The part where someone with money (adults) buys our books for readers (mostly kids). The people with more experience than any other when it comes to getting books into the hands of a young reader is a librarian. I’d like to welcome Matthew Winner, Elementary Librarian, Podcast Host, Author, and super nice guy.
Welcome to the Blog Matthew. So why did you and how did you become a librarian?
I taught 4th grade as a general educator for a few years, but began work right away on my Master's in School Library Media after being inspired by the school librarian where I taught. I became a school librarian soon after when a nearby school had a position open and I felt the calling to step out beyond the classroom into a role that served the whole school. It's been a great career so far and there's not much better than watching readers grow and championing global citizenship through books, authors, literacy, and technology.
How do you stay on top of what to purchase for your library? There are so many choices.
I read a lot. Mostly I'm reading for my podcasts (All The Wonders podcast and The Best Book Ever [this week]), but I also read reviews monthly in School Library Journal and daily across various library a teacher blogs. Beyond that, I try to listen really closely to the interests of our students and the needs of our teachers when selecting materials for our library.
How do you match up books to readers?
Ahh! This is the art of being a school librarian! Knowing readers, knowing their interests, and knowing the reading level where they feel most comfortable as a reader as all things I take into consideration when helping to connect kids with books. Often they are excited to read whatever I'm excited over or whatever we put on display. I think they've come to trust the hard work we've put into building a really strong collection, so they know there are endless excellent choices for them in our library.
I know I was always grateful when my librarian handed me a book she thought I’d like! Since you are also a writer, how does that affect the way you look at books that come into your library?
I'm aware that I don't write for all kids and I acknowledge that the books in our library were also not written for every single reader. I know what I like to read aloud and I know what books move me or make me smile or keep me thinking about them long after I read them aloud. Being a librarian and reading books aloud as regularly as I do has helped me to understand and identify those qualities that make good books work so well. As I write I try to keep in mind those qualities in addition to those readers I see every day. If I can picture the faces for which I'm writing, I can usually tell if I'm on the right track.
Are you ever shocked, impressed, or amazed at the books kids end up loving?
I'm amazed by my students every single day. I'm amazed at their avid reading habits (I was not an avid reader as a child). I'm impressed that they read and retain as much as they do (I have memories of the emotions I felt reading books, but not so much of the stories themselves). I wouldn't say I'm shocked by what books they end up loving, but often I'm taken aback when they read a story and tell me a personal connection stirred up from reading the book. Some of the experiences my students have lived already at such a young age are quite profound. But I'm never ever surprised when they love a book, no matter what the book is. After all, that book was written for them.
I'm never ever surprised when they love a book, no matter what the book is. After all, that book was written for them.
My favorites change all the time, but my students would probably say Shh! We Have a Plan! by Chris Haughton, Press Here by Herve Tullet, and A Hungry Lion, or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins.
I love A Hungry Lion, or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals. So clever. What do you wish you had in your library? Do you see any holes in the bookshelf that need to be filled?
We're always in need of more stories depicting diverse individuals, backgrounds, and experiences, but quite frankly the thing I wish I had more of in our library is space. We're blessed to have a revolving door of students visiting us each day, but having more space (and maybe even more time) would allow us to better serve as a place for the students to call their own. But if you're in need of picture book ideas, we could use more books featuring talking boats that enter dance competitions with stories themed around friendship , acceptance, and navigating the choppy waters of pier pressure.
Okay... that was a long way to go for a joke. But, seriously? There might be something there!
Yup, that on was a long hull… J What fuels your creative time? Chocolate, coffee, music?
Podcasting fuels my creative time. I scheduled interviews at least once a week and I find that I think about the things I've talked about with guests throughout the rest of the week. Being connected with others. Having a platform to be enthusiastic over their work. Helping others to know their work matters to a much greater audience than they may realize. That is what it's all about for me.
Thank you, Matthew, for joining us. I can’t wait to see more of your podcasts and your future books!
BIO: Matthew Winner is an elementary library media specialist in Elkridge, Maryland. He is the co-founder and content director of AllTheWonders.com, a children’s literature website and more, and host of the All The Wonders podcast, a weekly podcast where Matthew talks to authors, illustrators, award winners, up-and-comers, and everyone in between. Matthew is represented by Danielle Smith of Red Fox Literary. For more information, connect with Matthew on Twitter at @MatthewWinner or online at MatthewCWinner.com.