On January 4, the Library of Congress, Every Child A Reader, and the Children’s Book Council appointed me the fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. My wife and I flew out to Washington D.C. for a fancy inauguration ceremony. I wore a fancy suit and got a fancy medal. I gave a speech to a class of local elementary school kids.
We hung out with David Mao, the Acting Librarian of Congress; John Cole, the Librarian of Congress Emeritus; and Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn Dixie) and Jon Scieszka (The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales), both of whom are former ambassadors.
It was a pretty amazing day. If you’re interested, you can find my speech here.
The post of National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature was created in 2008, and the whole point is to get more kids reading and kids reading more. Every ambassador has a platform. For example, Ms. DiCamillo, my immediate predecessor, chose the platform Stories Connect Us. She spoke about how books can bring communities together.
My platform is Reading Without Walls. I want kids to explore the world through books, to read outside of their comfort zones. Specifically, I want them – and you – to do one of three things:
1. Read a book with someone on the cover who doesn’t look like you or live like you. Books are a great way to get to know people who are different from us. By reading other people’s stories, we can develop insight and compassion.
2. Read a book about a topic that you find intimating. My pet project in this area is promoting books about science, technology, engineering, and math. Often, people think of stories and science as completely separate, but they’re not. Stories are a great way to learn science.
3. Read a book in a format that you’ve never tried before. If you only read books with words, give a graphic novel a try. If you only read graphic novels, try a prose novel, a novel in verse, or a hybrid (half graphic, half prose) novel.
I can’t tell you how excited and honored I am about my appointment. I can’t wait to connect with readers of all ages around the country.
The Children’s Book Council and I are also talking about how to use technology to engage readers. Nothing concrete yet. More to come, so stay tuned!