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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.

New Ambassador for Young People's Literature

January 5, 2010

I've been scooped!

The New York Times reported earlier today that the new ambassador was to be appointed today — at the Library of Congress. I'm not sour grapes, though. One of the reasons this posting is so late is that I got to attend the program at which Ambassador Jon Scieszka became emeritus and Katherine Paterson began her two-year term.

Both spoke. Both are passionate in their commitment to young readers, books, and the link between them. Both have been critically acclaimed. (Katherine Paterson is one of only five writers to have been awarded the prestigious Newbery Medal twice.)

It is also readily apparent that the current (or as Jon Scieszka might say, reigning) ambassador and the immediate past ambassador are polar opposites.

What amazes and delights me is that the very funny, quite irreverent, unpredictable Jon Scieszka and the thoughtful, considered, slyly humorous Katherine Paterson both write books that are widely read by a range of readers.

And notably, both are fine representatives in the field of literature for young people. I think this just goes to show how rich the literature really is and allows the promotion of books and reading beyond the ranks of those already engaged.

During Paterson's talk I chuckled and got weepy, once simultaneously, as she challenged readers of all ages to "read for life." Since Katherine Paterson is by far more eloquent than I could ever be, I ask you to consider the many meanings of this simple yet complex statement.

Finally, it's worth recalling one of Jon Scieszka's wishes for this ambassadorship; that is (and forgives me for paraphrasing!), some day may there be more — or at least as many — ambassadors as there are young readers.

It may happen if all adults and young readers themselves become ambassadors for books and stories — though perhaps without a large inscribed medal! Who knows?

Meantime, kudos to the Library of Congress and the Children's Book Council for backing the idea — and heartfelt thanks to our Ambassadors Paterson and Scieszka for their commitment. They are more than national ambassadors — they are national treasures.

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"Writing is thinking on paper. " — William Zinsser