April 26, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Jacqueline Woodson Named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson has been named the sixth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Woodson, a four-time Newbery Honor Medalist, Coretta Scott King Book Award winner, former Young People’s Poet Laureate, and National Book Award Winner for her memoir in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming (Penguin, 2014), succeeds Gene Luen Yang in the position. The ambassadorship is jointly sponsored by the Children’s Book Council, Every Child a Reader, and the Library of Congress (LC).

Ambassadors identify a platform for their two-year term, and Woodson has selected the phrase READING = HOPE x CHANGE (What’s Your Equation?). During her tenure, Woodson will travel the country encouraging young people to think about—and beyond—the moment they’re living in, the power they possess, and the ways reading can help them create hope and change in the world.

“I think the work ahead of me is challenging,” Woodson said in a press release. “I don’t believe there are ‘struggling’ readers, ‘advanced’ readers, or ‘non’ readers. I’d love to walk away from my two years as Ambassador with the qualifiers gone and young people able to see themselves beyond stigma or oft-times debilitating praise.

“Martin Luther King Jr. said people should not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. In that regard, I think young people should not be judged by the level of their reading but by the way a book makes them think and feel. By the way it gives them hope. By the way it opens them up to new perspectives and changes them. I’m excited to have these conversations with some of the best conversationalists in our country—our young people.”

Woodson’s recent adult book, Another Brooklyn (HarperCollins, 2016), was a 2016 National Book Award finalist. In addition, Woodson received of the 2006 Margaret A. Edwards Award, bestowed for a body of work that has made a significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature. The award is sponsored by School Library Journal and administered by the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association.

The National Ambassadors are chosen for their contributions to young people’s literature, ability to relate to kids and teens, and dedication to fostering children’s literacy in all forms. The selection, made by the Librarian of Congress, is based on recommendations from an independent committee comprised of educators, librarians, booksellers, and children’s literature experts. Woodson succeeds beloved authors Jon Scieszka (2008–09), Katherine Paterson (2010–11), Walter Dean Myers (2012–13), Kate DiCamillo (2014–15), and Yang (2016-17) in the position.

“With the addition of the amazing Jacqueline Woodson, our League of Ambassadors is now officially unstoppable,” Scieszka told SLJ.  “Her superpowers of poetry, empathy, truth-telling, and all around cool will help us reach every kid as a reader.”

Woodson’s formal inauguration ceremony will take place on Tuesday, January 9, at 10:30 a.m. in the Members’ Room of the LC. Tickets are not required for this event, which is free and open to the public. The inauguration will be hosted by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden and live-streamed on the LC’s YouTube channel.

In August, Woodson will release two new books: The Dream of America, a middle grade novel, and The Day You Begin (both Penguin), a picture book illustrated by Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Rafael López.

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Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.

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Comments

  1. Linda J Johnson says:

    What a great equation. I would display and have students to answer the question 3 times in a school year.

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