"Jedlie" is the moniker of Jed Doherty, an award-winning writer, and performer who uses storytelling, illusions, music, comedy, and positive reinforcement to help children learn how to make safety-conscious and healthy choices. Jed also wants Children to learn how to be more kind and inclusive. A certified social worker since 1983, Jed has since retired and started working as a magician which has enabled him to bring fun and joy to millions of communities in the United States and Puerto Rico.

Jed served as the screenwriter, producer, and star of a disabilities-awareness video called “MELTDOWN!!! (The Walls That Separate)”.

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The video earned international acclaimed and was shown in classrooms all over the world. Moreover, Jed and his wife, Carmen, have welcomed many international students into their home; an experience he credits with helping him become more creative.

One of Jed's best-known endeavors is the creation of the "Reading With Your Kids" podcast which promotes reading, family time, game nights, cooking, DIY-projects, and other fun things that families can do together. This podcast was born from an earlier one called "We Choose Respect ParentCast" which featured author interviews and parenting experts who shed light on the best ways to foster values such as caring and respect in children.

That show is no longer produced, but over one-hundred episodes are still available on iTunes and elsewhere.

In a recent and exclusive interview, Jed discussed his experiences as an entertainer, his plans for the future, and more.

Reading, stories, and podcasts

Meagan Meehan (MM): When did you get interested in the benefits of reading?

Jed Doherty (JD): When I was in high school I began tutoring kids at an inner-city elementary school in Boston. Initially, it was to fulfill a community service project, but it very quickly became something I loved.

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To help a kid in second, third or even fifth grade who was struggling start to gain confidence as a reader was so rewarding for me. I continued to volunteer at that school for many years after the project ended

MM: When you were a small child, what were some of your favorite stories?

JD: I was very lucky to grow up surrounded by lots of extended family. I do remember my parents reading to me, and a few of my older cousins who lived in the neighborhood. The first books I got to call my own, and cherished, were “Make Way for Ducklings” by Robert McCluskey and “Mr.

Bear Goes To Boston” by Marion Flood French.

MM: What memories do you have of reading to your children?

JD: I LOVED reading to my kids. That time spent together was the foundation our current relationships were built on. That time was the start of the conversations about the life we continue to have. Reading together helped my kids learn they could ask questions, that they could share their ideas, that it was okay to talk about emotions. There were so many stories my kids loved. Our favorite was “Clown of God” by Tomi dePaula.

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We also loved Dr. Seuss. My son loved the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey.

MM: When and why did you decide to start your podcast and what was the process of getting it off the ground like?

JD: The Reading With Your Kids podcast is my third podcast. It is my favorite by far. I love the mission of the podcast, to inspire parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, caregivers, to read more with their kids. It is so important. Reading with kids helps them in so many ways, they learn to read, build vocabulary, learn empathy, gain confidence, develop a love of reading and learning, but most of all it helps strengthen the loving bond between parent and child. Believe it or not, launching a podcast is a fairly simple process. Many resources will teach you the technical things you need to learn. And thanks to sites like “libsyn” your podcast can be distributed around the World with a few dollars and a few clicks of a mouse.

MM: What kinds of topics do you cover on your podcast?

JD: We aim to inspire parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, caregivers, to read more with their kids. And by reading with your kids, I am not only talking about cuddling up on the couch with your toddlers reading picture books. Reading with your kids is something you can do with your 3rd grader, middle school student, you can do it with your adult child. It may not be together on a couch, but as your kids get older, you can read books simultaneously and talk about the Book together, kind of like you’re in a book club together. It is an excellent way to talk about values and issues that are important to you and your kids. Since we are encouraging parents with kids of all ages to read together, we cover all sorts of topics. In one week, we once talked to different authors about Beagles, encouraging kids, especially girls, to explore Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math, as well as teens deciding whether or not to have sex.

MM: How do you find people to interview in your podcast and what kinds of individuals do you seek?

JD: I am looking to showcase authors who love writing for kids, who love writing books that will help inspire kids to reach for the stars and to be a kind, caring, respectful person. I want to give these authors an opportunity to tell the world about these books, to get parents excited to find these books and share them with their kids. I find a lot of my guests on social media, especially Twitter and Facebook. I was very happy to discover that there are pretty large communities of children’s authors on those platforms. I am also at the point now where many of my past guests are telling their author friends about the show and suggesting they reach out.

Books, performing, and children

MM: You have published your own children's book, so what is it about and what inspired it?

JD: “The Great Maritini” was inspired by the story of the Good Samaritan and it began life as a hilarious part of my educational magic show. It’s a fun and touching a book about a magician named Sam who is known throughout his homeland as “The Great Maritini.” Although he makes mistakes, Sam never gives up on himself and learns how to be a better magician and use his abilities to help others. With a lot of help from my incredibly talented niece, Tiffany Doherty, we transformed that story into a print and eBook.

MM: You’re also a professional magician so do you feel like that career has helped you in your creative writing and/or podcast work?

JD: I think all of these creative outlets feed and support each other. One of the reasons I feel I have been able to make a living as an educational magician for over twenty-five years is that I can write fascinating, engaging stories that I tell through magic. “The Great Maritini” began its life as one of those magical stories!

My experience as a performer helps me as a podcaster. Many years ago, my daughter, who was only eleven at the time, observed that my magic show was different than others because my performance was not about “hey look at how cool I am because I can do tricks, it was always about bringing kids and stage and using my magic to help the audience see how cool that kid was.” As the host of the Reading With Your Kids podcast, I feel my job is to help the audience see how cool my authors and their books are.

MM: You have also hosted exchange students, so how have those experiences impacted your life?

JD: My wife and I are from different cultures, my wife’s family is from Puerto Rico, my family from Ireland. We wanted our kids to grow to embrace those differences, to see cultural differences as something to explore, not to fear. Living in Boston gave us some great opportunities to expose them to people and art and customs from all around the world.

My daughter attended an amazing high school in Boston. About half of the students are international students. My daughter became best friends with three young women from Milan, Italy. They visited the house often, and my wife fell in love with them. When they returned to Italy, they had friends who were looking to come to the US for short stays. Those first experiences were so positive we became a host family for the school. We have had some students from Italy, China, and the Netherlands live with us. It has been a wonderful experience.

The biggest impact, of course, has been that our family has tripled in size as we consider all of those young people to be part of our family. Oh, and I have learned how to cook Chinese dumplings from scratch!

MM: How do you envision the "Reading With Your Kids" podcast evolving over the next ten years?

JD: One of the things I would like to do is to get kids voices on the show. I would love to develop a weekly segment where kids can talk to other kids about their favorite books. Right now, we are talking to parents and authors. I understand that the parents who are listening are most likely already reading to their kids on a regular basis. I would love to talk to children, especially kids who folks might not read with them that much, and encourage them to ask their folks to read with them more.

And, of course, to encourage them to read more on their own. I have a feeling that as technology changes we will find more ways to make the podcast much more interactive. I am currently working on a new series of stories that share some of the amazing experiences I have had on stage. Tiffany and I are creating illustrations for the stories. I am looking to publish these stories as print and e-books that will include links to some great additional online content including video, games.