*Disclaimer: Permission to interview and feature Olivia on A New Look On Books was given by her mother Cynthia Merrill.
Meet Olivia Van Ledtje.
Olivia (aka LivBit) is a 10-year old reader, thinker, and kids’ voice believer. She is smart about all things shark and hopes to be a future ichthyologist. Olivia is an ambassador for the Gills Club, an organization promoting girls in science through inquiry-based experiences meant to grow enthusiasm and activism for sharks. She is also a passionate advocate for books and using social media to promote digital citizenship, voice and audience. Olivia’s work on LivBits has been featured all over the world, including conferences in Taiwan, Singapore, and England. She was so excited to be included as a keynote speaker and voice for kids using social media at the Digital Citizenship Summit at Twitter Headquarters. She’s been honored to present with accomplished authors at national conferences across the country, including NCTE, ASCD, ISTE, and ILA. Handpicked by Alan November, she was the youngest kid keynote at his 2017 international Building Learning Communities (BLC) conference in Boston, MA. Since then, Liv has become a seasoned kid keynoter, speaking all over the country about book activism, digital citizenship, and using tech for good. Her new podcast, The KidLit Show is produced by Panoply in NYC, and featured in their Pinna app. Olivia looks forward to more opportunities working with authors and organizations that share her drive to promote reading, thinking, and digital citizenship for kids. Connect with Olivia on her social media accounts (Twitter and Instagram) @thelivbits or by visiting her website: www.theLivBits.com
Onto the interview!
Congrats on your upcoming podcast: The KidLit Show! Tell me the story behind its creation and what inspired you the most when it became real.
Thank you so much! I am soooooo excited for my show! I actually got this opportunity from my social media presence — that’s how the people at Pinna found me. I received an email about the work I was doing for LivBits, and they asked if I would consider doing a podcast. I got to meet with the Pinna people in NYC, and before I knew it, I had my own show! So, the truth is The KidLit Show was very influenced by my LivBit work!
The show is created by my awesome producer, Hannah Cope. She and I collaborate on the scripts. I write the author questions and the Liv’s Lists. Hannah creates the themes for the show based on books I love. I contacted most of the authors to see if they’d be interested in talking with me. I feel really proud that so many of them were willing to be on the show. I really hope I get to do the KidLit show for A LOT of years, so I can share my thinking about LOTS of books!
One of my favorite things about the podcast is the theme music! I think as soon as anyone hears it, they will automatically feel happy! I also LOVED doing the “kids on the block” segments. It was fun talking with real kids about their reading lives, and honestly, I never knew what they were going to say. We got some pretty hysterical responses!
You will also learn loads of fun facts about the featured authors. Who knew Booki Vivat can’t ride a bike because she has bad balance or that Kate DiCamillo can’t braid? Listening to this podcast will give you sooooo many cool fun facts about authors you love!
When did you know you wanted to help other kids connect with books and promote digital literacy through becoming LivBit?
I started LivBits in February, 2016 almost two years ago when I was eight years old. My mum is a staff developer, and she was working with teachers to have kids use devices creating videos about their thinking. The project was called the Selfie Center, and I was sooooo inspired, I decided to make my own. I call my selfie videos, LivBits because they are a little bit of me Liv, and a little bit of my thinking, Bits. Put it altogether and you have LivBits!
I really wanted to have an audience outside of just my family, so my mum suggested posting them on Instagram. As soon as I started posting, I got more and more followers, and incredible feedback that motivated me to read more books and make more LivBits! Shortly after that, I went to a technology conference where my mum was scheduled to present about the selfie center. I was lucky she let me share about LivBits too. That conference was life changing! Not only did I get a standing ovation, I also met incredible people who began using and sharing my work even more widely! The truth is, all kids need are grown ups who believe and encourage them. When kids have this, they can change the world!
I call myself a book activist. I want to encourage and inspire kids to read and think more. I want kids to know that reading can change their lives. I want them to know reading can help them care more about the world. I want them to know authors give us things to think about in books that can change us for the better. I want kids to know their stories matter.
Do you have a favorite book, author, or series? If yes, have you gotten a chance to meet the author in person yet?
This is a really, really HARD question for me to answer, because I LOVE so many different genres and authors! But, just recently, I met Victoria Jamieson, the author of the graphic novel Roller GIrl. I felt so lucky to be able to have a drawing lesson from her AND hear her speak about how she became a writer. She is also the first author to ever communicate with me on social media, and it motivated me SO MUCH to keep reading and creating.
I am a HUGE nonfiction reader, and I have a great friendship online with Seymour Simon. He’s the author of SO MANY incredible non-fiction books for kids. He’s written about pretty much EVERYTHING! My dream is to interview him on my podcast, because I think kids will be so excited to hear from an author who writes about cool topics like earthquakes, sharks, and the desert.
I think listeners can assume that any author I talk with on my podcast is a favorite! I got to talk with them about their books, their writing process, and things they love! I think listeners will enjoy the flow and the content of every show, and I promise, you’ll have books to add to your reading stack!
What is one thing you want your audience to know about you as LivBit and your digital literacy inspirations?
I’d love for my audience to look at my work and say, “Wow! Kids can do amazing things!” I also really want the world to know KIDS CAN TEACH US! We can do really HARD things if we are encouraged by others.
I want people to feel happy when they see things I create. I hope my work shows the joy I feel for reading, thinking, and life. I hope kids look at my work and feel inspired to try making their own Bits.
Anytime I post, I am telling my story to the world. I want my story to be one that is inspirational, motivating, creative, and unique. My work is always a reflection of my citizenship both online and off. I hope people feel happy when they see my posts, but also eager for what comes next in my LivBit story.
LivBits has changed my life. It’s given me opportunities to learn and grow from people all over the world. I am a better kid because of my LivBit experiences.
Is there anything you’d like to share with the readers today?
I think it’s really powerful to remember, your reading life can remind you to be hopeful during hard times. Reading stories can help you wonder more about the world. Stories can carry you through challenges and help you feel brave. Books can ignite your passions and motivate you to stand for a cause that matters. Every single kid in the world deserves to be part of a reading community that helps them feel important and wanted.
I wish everyone so many happy stories! I hope you keep reading and keep thinking about things you love. I hope you connect with people who encourage you to grow your ideas. But, most of all, I wish you reading experiences that make your heartbeep in ways you never dreamed possible.
Thank you Liv for stopping by!
Stay tuned for The KidLit Show coming soon!