Episode #198: Dennis Matthew

Dana GoodierOut of the Trenches Podcast

Dennis Matthew is an elementary school speech pathologist, singer-songwriter and author. For over 20 years Dennis has had the joy and honor of working with children in public schools and through non-profit work.

In 2018, he launched his authorship, bringing children’s stories integrating social emotional wholeness, language enrichment, critical thinking, conflict resolution and character development to life.

His published works so far are “Bello the Cello”, “My Wild First Day of School”, and “How Grizzly Found Gratitude”.  He is also a singer-songwriter with a published music album for schools called, “The Let’s Roar Experience”.  Through his books and music Dennis has reached tens of thousands of students worldwide since 2018.

He eagerly looks forward to hearing from you, to work with your school community to spread joy through story and song!

Trench story: Inception of his authorship, emotionally/prof (summer of 2017). Was in a dry spell. Lost joy of working in education, was mundane. Was also unemployed. Started writing story he’d had in his mind about cello for over 10 yrs. Now he’s been on his journey 4 years- 50K books distributed. It helped him find a regenesis. Has found a joy again. Let’s work in education to inspire writing.

Choose one of your children’s books to highlight and talk about on the podcast-He wants to see students identify with emotions of characters. Not surface-level stories. He wants kids to be self-aware. Regulate life circumstance. SEL wholeness.  Purpose #2- wants them to be resources for the CR. Wants educators to feel like they can work off it for a month. “Bello the Cello”- emo conflict is “what is my life’s purpose?”. We can plant the seed with the youngest of students to have them start asking “what are my strengths? Kids are never too young for that. “What is my life’s song?” main ? in the book. Where do I fit in is a ? all adults even think about. Character of moon & Miss Melody point Bello in right direction. You don’t find your way on y

our own. Discovering larger narratives of life. From educator perspective- ark of story, facets of characters. He’s hoping educators will collaborate with each other. F.ex. using art lessons. He writes for 2 purposes-culturally responsive, SEL.

Getting books to kids thru the LLC: mostly public schools most get a hold of him thru website, social. Go to (booksbydennis.com) he’s distributing out multiple 100’s of boxes to schools. He likes playing the role of sending the books out. Has mobilized 45K books to schools since 2019. Right now is just targeting bulk purchases. Communicates with educators across the nation throughout the day- supt, principals, media directors, etc. He directs others to go to Amazon. He has sales come in through personal connections. Hasn’t really done much marketing. $300K/ in 3 yrs.

During the pandemic, did 250+ virtual visits. Just wrapped up 2 weeks of in-person visits. It’s up to the school if it’s an assembly- he does music and reads his books- 45m/1hr. One the assembly is done usually leaves. Sometimes he has sent the books beforehand. Prek-5. It all comes down to what the school is looking for. Had 1000 students or 2 tune in. It’s about opening their eyes about what literature, music can be. He tells kids there is no substitute for hard work.

Journey as an elementary school speech pathologist to songwriting. Started dabbling in songwriting in HS. Didn’t go anywhere. Once book sales took off, he added songwriting component. He had an affinity for language & accents. Over the 16 years as SLP, he’s heard kids tell him their stories. He realized he could start creating stories. Takes lessons from stories & puts them to music. Song about gratitude for “How Grizzly Found Gratitude”. They all feed each other. 2 FT gigs.

Marketing-how did company take off? He had to do a lot of leg work. He did book fairs when first started out. Promoted on social media. Lots of hard work-it is like a marathon. Word of mouth. He’s doing everything, dad helps him some. Builds genuine friendships w/ educators beyond the books. Personal connection he maintains sometimes for 1-2 years until they buy the books. Pandemic facilitated mass distributions. He doesn’t charge for presentations, but the schools buy the books. It’s ultimately kids who receive the benefit of all this. 50K target will be hit in Sept/Oct. State allocated funds used for books. “Don’t be a vendor, genuinely care about ppl you sell books too”. He lets relationship grow over the course of yrs. Writing stories has evolved into educators across the country becoming friends of his. Plant seeds for the long haul.

Key quotes: Everyone has a story to tell. Be inspired by listening to someone else’s but ask yourself what story you have within you. Get that story out there! Click To Tweet

Find Dennis online: Children’s Author, Songwriter, Educator, Oklahoma City (www.booksbydennis.com)  @storiesbydennis Twitter @booksbydennis IG FB: DennisMatthew 

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/60OTlsBgRhE


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