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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

So long, Mr. Ambassador

December 15, 2009

This December marks the last month of Jon Scieszka's tenure as the first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. For two years, Mr. Scieszka (the author of several children's books and founder of Guys Read) has worked to promote a love of reading and books. He's been particularly focused on helping parents and teachers reach the reluctant reader, one he describes as "that's the kid who might be a reader, who could be one, but just isn't that interested in reading."

Scieszka wrote a quick goodbye this week in the Huffington Post in which Mr. Scieszka recounted some of his favorite moments during his time as The Ambassador. They're sweet and funny, and made me glad that he's been the voice of children's literature.

Scieszka also summarized the advice he's been giving, and it's really good. So good, in fact, that I'll put his bullet points here, but then go back and read the whole post:

  • Let each child choose what she or he wants to read. I'll never forget my own son's reaction reading Little House on the Prairie (a favorite of many readers): "Are they really going to spend this whole chapter making a door?"
  • Expand the definition of "reading" to include non-fiction, humor, graphic novels, magazines, action adventure, and, yes, even websites. It's the pleasure of reading that counts; the focus will naturally broaden. A boy won't read shark books forever.
  • If a kid doesn't like one book, don't worry about finishing it. Start another. The key is helping children find what they like.
  • Be a good reading role model. Show kids what you like to read, what you don't like to read, how you choose what you read. Let them see you reading.
  • Avoid demonizing television, computer games, and new technologies. Electronic media may compete for kids' attention, but we're not going to get kids reading by badmouthing other entertainment. Admit that TV and games can do things books can't. Talk about how reading can make a world in ways that movies and games can't.

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