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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Meet the new Ambassador for Young People’s Literature: Gene Yang

January 14, 2016

Ambassador Gene Luen Yang

On January 7, the 5th Ambassador for Young People’s Literature was officially installed at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Gene Yang's induction was attended by former ambassadors, Kate DiCamillo and Jon Scieszka in a role also held by Walter Dean Myers and Katherine Paterson.

Yang, a former teacher and self-proclaimed nerd, challenged the children and adults to read beyond what they normally did — beyond the walls each of us creates to read about other people, other topics, other ideas encapsulated in his ambassadorial theme, "Reading Without Walls."

As not only the youngest ambassador to date but a comic book artist and a computer whiz, Yang and his work are not constrained by traditional walls. Walls of words and ideas are enlivened by art. Sequential art becomes comics which have become mainstream for readers of all ages. And the use of technology lets readers find story and information and meet people far beyond walls or other limitations.

Yang’s vision of diversity is an inclusive one. He seems to suggest that readers — like writers — should not be limited by their self-imposed walls. While walls may help define us, they can also restrict us. As the world in which we live changes, it expands and becomes smaller at the same time.

The need to go beyond what we typically encounter is imperative to understand this ever-changing world is crucial — and there’s no better place to start than through a book in whatever form it takes. Mr. Ambassador has a big job ahead of him. Overcoming walls can be tough work. It’ll be a busy two years for Gene Yang but he’s more than up for the challenge.

We’ll be following his tenure, so stay tuned!

The Making of a Graphic Novel

Watch as Yang demonstrates the steps in his writing and drawing process. (Credit: The Kennedy Center Education Department, Performing Arts Series).

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"I used to walk to school with my nose buried in a book." — Coolio