Scieszka Named National Reading Ambassador

Scieszka Named National Reading Ambassador

Popular children’s author Jon Scieszka was appointed by the Library of Congress January 3 as the first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Scieszka, the writer of The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs and the Caldecott Honor-winning The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, will use his two-year term to promote reading and to reach out to reluctant readers through the media, personal appearances, and project development.

Modeled upon the U.K.’s Children’s Laureate position, the program was created by LC’s Center for the Book and the Children’s Book Council (CBC), a publishing trade association. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington observed that this is a crucial time for creating young readers, noting the recent National Endowment for the Arts study “To Read or Not to Read,” which highlighted the decline in American reading habits and proficiency. “We think it’s very important to have an evangelist for reading,” Billington said in the January 3 Washington Post.

“It was a great event with the perfect person chosen for this first-ever position,” said Jane Marino, president of ALA’s Association for Library Service to Children, who was in attendance at the official announcement in New York City. “Jon Scieszka today showed his ability to connect with kids as he read to and chatted with students from two local schools. I know that Jon will do wonders over the next two years in giving children’s books the visibility they deserve.”

“Jon Scieszka’s platform will spotlight the diversity and breadth of children’s literature available today and in so doing present a solution to what can be done to change the state of reading in this county,” CBC Executive Director Robin Adelson said in a January 3 press release.

Based on his contribution to young people’s literature and his ability to relate to young readers, Scieszka was nominated by a five-member committee of children’s literature experts, and Billington confirmed the decision. Scieszka, who will receive a $50,000 stipend for his service, also runs Guys Read, a nonprofit program that encourages boys to become readers.

“All the stuff I’ve learned for boys seems to work for everybody,” Scieszka said in the January 3 Publishers Weekly. “I’m speaking to that knucklehead in the back of the classroom, because that knucklehead was me.”

Posted January 4, 2008.