Interviewing Kitty was such fun! She has this beautiful voice that just brings out emotion. I could feel myself tearing up while talking with her. She gave me goose bumps, and had my emotions all over the place. She is truly a master, and really enjoyable.
I know this doesn't give much summary about the interview itself, but she left more of an impression on me emotionally than anything else, so I had to point that out!
The beginning. Kitty worked at a talk show in Los Angeles for a number of years and they would join the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books where they get to be with fans with their kids tagging along. The kids would say that they too listen which surprises Kitty since they’re not the target audience for the topics covered. They would simply say, “But we’re in mom’s carpool and we have to listen…”. Kitty went “Wow! If I have something for you what would you be interested in?”, and since they’re in the middle of the festival, they thought of books. With that thought, Kitty started to invite at least 3 middle school readers to join her and they would simply talk about the book while the author listens over the phone. Conversation was just about the books and Kitty was very interested as to where the conversation would lead and she enjoyed every minute of it. On the downside the station hated it, which made Kitty move to cable television. With the move, she continued to do the same activities with the kids in local libraries.
Kitty went back to reporting in 2009 until the station thought of closing all their political bureaus on January 2015.
Kitty then tried to think of what she wanted to do next, and of all the journalistic things she’s done she really want to go back and talk about books with kids. With the technology, she then opted to do a podcast which they launched July of 2015. Right now, the Book Club for Kids has taped more than 50 episodes and they have more than 20,000 subscribers which continues to grow.
The Book Club for Kids. Kitty really enjoyed talking to kids and as she recalls being at the same age as her audience, she would have wanted to talk to an adult, who can treat her like a thinking adult and she would tell them anything. Her conversation with the kids make her hopeful of the future and they give her insights as to how they see the world differently. She gets to look into the minds of kids as she’s interested to answer questions like, “What are they worried about?”, “What are they thinking about?”, “Where do they want more freedom?”, “How do they view the future?”, “How do they view us?” which fascinates her all the more to have the discussion about books as the conversation then lead to anything under the sun.
Conversation starts with the plot of the book and they move on to some other points like, the style of the writing, why is the story unusual as compared to other books, etc. She also likes to talk about the appropriateness of the book where she gets to share that kids are protective of young readers as they would be very vocal and honest as to what age group the book would be applicable for.
Conversation then always gets a left-turn. She simply follows the flow of the conversation with the kids as they would often talk about what they care about. They talk about things from the book that they can relate to in their life.
Getting connected with people. When people gets to talk to Kitty, she has a gift where people simply start telling her stuff. She thinks that it’s just a matter of trust as she does not push people to tell her anything. She says that if she is present in the conversation – she has the interest to listen to what people has to say, reacts and laughs at their jokes, listens and make eye contact, no matter if she’s talking to kids or adult, they would be very open. Everyone wants to be heard, humans have the hunger to be heard.
With her podcast, she realized that kids are worried about security. They’re much more concerned about safety and freedom. Freedom in a much larger sense, like how much freedom should a specific age group be allowed? What are the limits of being reasonable versus being over-protective? She admits this conversation comes up quite a bit.
Kids also think about the world at large - the way the world should run if they were running it. Like our way of thinking when we were young, that “If only the adults would listen to us, the world would be a better place”.
Vision. The goal is to always turn reluctant readers into life-long book lovers. Her secret agenda though is to hear those voices and opinions that we get from young people. Especially that her audience is the group that’s not heard that often. She simply take the middle school readers as a wise group and that she appreciates their opinions and that she considers it very valuable.
Good readers make better writers but writing also makes better readers. The two things are connected, how words work together and sound together. The more you understand how things work the more you appreciate the work on the page and becomes less of a task but more of a puzzle to be solved.
There was a study that shows students are better to keep the information in their heads when they are required to write about what they learned. Kitty sees it as the connection between the eye, hand and paper that connects words and thoughts and ideas together.
Kitty’s book recommendations.
Skellig by David Almond
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Goodnight, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian
Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
Hour of the bees by Lindsay Eagar
Loving Versus Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Projects. Kitty wrote a short play about the Anacostia Watershed. Uncover the story about the Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens. She wrote it originally for a 10-minute play and now has a full length version. The reading would be held in the Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens this Oct 7.