My co-founder, husband, and partner in all things, Felix, and I built Beanstack fueled by the belief that reading has the power to transform lives. A love of reading, and the desire to expand access to education by contributing to a reading culture, is the through line of my life’s work; it connects my time leading Google’s education outreach to my work as a middle school teacher, and of course, to our work creating Beanstack.
Now, I am thrilled to share my newest venture, a true passion project: a Beanstack podcast called The Reading Culture!
On the podcast, I’ll speak with diverse authors to explore ways to build a stronger culture of reading in our communities. I’ll uncover their motivations while taking a peek behind the curtain into the stories from their own lives that often map onto the characters they create (and the stories we know and love). We’ll dive into their inspirations, discuss their responses to the current climate of children’s literature, and delve into why their stories and ideas connect so well with kids and motivate them to read more. And, as bonus motivation, each guest will share a unique reading challenge, centered around subjects and questions that relate to their work.
I hope you’re as excited about this podcast as I am. And if you are, then I know you’ll have some questions. Dive deeper into the project with me below and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!
Who is The Reading Culture for?
You! The Reading Culture is for anyone who loves reading and cares about children’s literature, but we think it will be especially meaningful for librarians and educators. Many origin stories for the authors I interview began in the library, where they first discovered a love of reading.
What makes The Reading Culture unique?
We worked hard to discover and craft a unique story for each episode. This involved deep thought, preparation, and collaboration with the featured authors to hone in on themes, motifs, and even narrative arcs in their own lives and work. For this reason, each episode is both a rich conversation and a self-contained journey that we hope will give all the satisfaction of a good story.
What kind of authors can I expect to hear from on the show?
Our first guest is Newbery Award-winning author Meg Medina. She is a powerhouse storyteller, writing for a wide range of ages and using her voice to speak out against book bans and challenges around the country. Also, Meg was herself a teacher!
Our show features a diverse set of authors and includes both emerging and established voices. Each featured author shares an author, poem, or passage that influenced them as well.
How did you choose the guests?
Our Beanstack community is always an incredible resource. We reached out to our librarian and educator partners earlier this year, and they directly suggested many of the authors we sought out.
And, I’d be remiss not to shout out my kids (ages 10 and 12) for their help with choosing authors. Our family loves to read, and my kids’ interests—the reading culture of our home, you could say—helps shape my perspective. I keep track of the books they bring down to read at breakfast through our Beanstack app and take note of those authors for the show!
How can The Reading Culture podcast inform my own work with young readers?
We ask all author guests to create a themed reading challenge about subjects and questions related to their work. You’ll find a book or two by the author, and also a constellation of other books that inform and relate to it. For example, the reading challenge Meg Medina created is called “Girls in Motion.” She selected a variety of books that, as she put it, “feature athletic girls who understand the power of sports, but understand the power of their own voice even more.”
You can download each author’s reading challenge as a paper reading log from our website and activate them as a virtual reading challenge, complete with themed badges, in Beanstack.
In many of our conversations, our author guests share useful tips, such as what makes a school visit excellent or methods they would use if they were teaching a writing class. These authors are very tuned into how to connect with young readers. That deeper level of understanding about beloved authors can help you talk to your students about the authors’ work.
Finally, we include “chapters” within the show notes to highlight specific elements of each episode. These are little nuggets that you could pull out to enhance an author visit or author study, or use in a number of ways in the classroom, even though the full conversation is largely intended for adults.
In my interview with Meg Medina, she said something that has resonated with me. “At some point, we go from reading to learn to reading to be human.” The more we read, the more human, the more accepting, the more informed we become. So how can we encourage young people to read more? To read joyfully? To read because they are intrinsically motivated to do it? These are the “why’s” that drive me, and I think this podcast helps us get a few steps closer to uncovering some of this magic.
At Beanstack, we help by offering a suite of tools and reading challenges to our school and library partners. My hope is that The Reading Culture nourishes the educators and librarians we serve and gives them an extra dose of inspiration.
Doing a deep dive with a beloved author, discovering new voices, and mapping a web of shared influences and revelations is also personally fulfilling for me. It’s giving me even more energy to bring to my work, the conversations I have about books, and my own reading life.
It’s important to shine a light on creators who are contributing to society. It’s not easy to be a writer. Expanding the knowledge and conversation around what led authors to write and read is an important part of building a culture of reading because it helps us understand their motivations and catalysts.
My hope for the show is that it motivates all of us to read more and to bring these lessons and insights to our own communities, wherever and whoever they may be.
Thank you for being a part of this next chapter with me. Remember to subscribe to The Reading Culture and to share with anyone you think will enjoy it.
Above all, keep reading!