Jacqueline Woodson, author of more than two dozen children’s, middle grade, and adult books has been appointed to the position of sixth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. She received the prestigious medal from Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden, in an inauguration ceremony this past Tuesday, January 9, in Washington, D.C.
The role of ambassador is to champion books and reading for youth everywhere, raising “national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education and the development and betterment of the lives of young people”. Outgoing national ambassador and graphic novelist Gene Yang remarked in his pass the torch presentation that “youth love stories”, adding “stories help make sense of our lives and Ms. Woodson’s books help teach youth about the world”.
Woodson is a four-time Newbery Honor Medalist, three-time National Book Award finalist, two-time Coretta Scott King Book Award winner, and former Young People’s Poet Laureate for her memoir-in-verse Brown-Girl Dreaming. As national ambassador, her platform will be Reading = Hope x Change.
“We go into a book hopeful for something. We’re hopeful for a good story, for some mirrors on the page, for great characterization. When we come out of a book, we’re different because we’ve met the writer halfway…Books change us. They can help us have the bigger conversations. They can help us see worlds, and identities, and ideas we’d never thought about before until we met them on the page.”
Books can show ways to create the hope and the change young readers want to see in the world. She vocalizes her respect for young people and believes they can handle tough issues (e.g. incarceration or foster care). “If we don’t talk about it, we can’t begin to change it”. The new Ambassador also glides over concern about the lure of electronics for youth, adding “we can find ways to engage with kids where they are, and find ways to keep giving them stories”.
To hear Ms. Woodson speak is very moving indeed. One of her most powerful messages for children is: “Brilliance is passion recognized (and celebrated)”. The important work for adults is to not kill that fire. The work for young people is to not let that fire get extinguished.
See Jacqueline Woodson’s children’s and middle grade titles in our collection here. Her books are must-reads!
Photo courtesy of @LibnOfCongress on Twitter.com