Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson, who identifies as queer and is raising two children, has been named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Children’s Book Council, Every Child a Reader, and the Library of Congress.
The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature program, established in 2008, “highlights the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education, and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.” During the two-year appointment, Woodson will travel nationwide to promote her platform, READING = HOPE x CHANGE (What’s Your Equation?), which “encourages young people to think about—and beyond—the moment they’re living in, the power they possess, and the impact reading can have on showing them ways in which they can create the hope and the change they want to see in the world.”
Woodson is a four-time Newbery Honor Medalist, Coretta Scott King Book Award-winner (for From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun, about a Black teen grappling with his mother’s coming out and dating a White woman), former Young People’s Poet Laureate, and National Book Award Winner (for her memoir-in-verse Brown Girl Dreaming). About her appointment as ambassador, she said in a statement:
I think the work ahead of me is challenging. 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.
She succeeds Jon Scieszka (2008–2009), Katherine Paterson (2010–2011), Walter Dean Myers (2012–2013), Kate DiCamillo (2014–2015), and Gene Luen Yang (2016-2017) in the role. She will be inaugurated by the 14th Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, on Tuesday, January 9 at 10:30 a.m. in the Members’ Room of the Library of Congress’ Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. Tickets are not required, and the event is free and open to the public. (Bonus fun fact: The Library of Congress was also one of several federal institutions to celebrate Pride Month last year, even though the President did not issue a proclamation for the event.)
Congratulations to her—I hope that many of us have the opportunity to encounter her personally as she travels the country (and to read her work, regardless).