Sunday, January 3, 2010

Have a Fresca! Let's toast Jon Scieszka!

For the past two years, Jon Scieszka has been rocking the United States as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, appointed by the Library of Congress.  On January 5, 2010, a new Ambassador will be appointed.  On this last day of Scieszka's term, bloggers from the around the universe are gathering to hold a party in his honor.  So I say, "Have a Fresca! Let's toast Jon Scieszka!"  You see, I can always remember how to say his name, because it rhymes with Fresca.

Jon Scieszka has unstoppable energy, knows how to get kids to laugh, and is right on about how to inspire kids, parents and teachers.  In the past two years, he's been to 33 states, and 274 schools, libraries, bookstores, conferences, and festivals.  He brought kids laughter, connected kids to great books, and made them feel like authors themselves - that they had stories to tell, and people wanted to listen.  And through this all, he's continued to write fantastic books!

Throughout his term, Scieszka has searched for ways to reach reluctant readers.  He strongly believes that the best way is to connect kids with reading that interests them, and to expand the definition of reading to include a wide range of styles: humor, fantasy, nonfiction, graphic novels, audiobooks and comics.  His advice throughout his tenure has been:
* Let each child choose what she or he wants to read. I'll never forget my own son's reaction reading Little House on the Prairie (a favorite of many readers): "Are they really going to spend this whole chapter making a door?"

* Expand the definition of "reading" to include non-fiction, humor, graphic novels, magazines, action adventure, and, yes, even websites. It's the pleasure of reading that counts; the focus will naturally broaden. A boy won't read shark books forever.

* If a kid doesn't like one book, don't worry about finishing it. Start another. The key is helping children find what they like.

* Be a good reading role model. Show kids what you like to read, what you don't like to read, how you choose what you read. Let them see you reading.

* Avoid demonizing television, computer games, and new technologies. Electronic media may compete for kids' attention, but we're not going to get kids reading by badmouthing other entertainment. Admit that TV and games can do things books can't. Talk about how reading can make a world in ways that movies and games can't.
(source: The Huffington Post, 12/11/09)
In order to help boys find great books to read that connect with their interests, Scieszka founded GUYS READ.  It's a great resource for parents looking for books that their boys might be interested in.  I love the category headings, ranging from "How to Build Stuff" to "At Least One Explosion".

The best thing about Scieszka's work throughout is his sense of humor.  Whether it's in the little preschool trucks that just bubble over with enthusiasm about crashing into anything and everything in Smash! Crash!, or it's the brothers crossing swords as they pee together in the toilet in his autobiography Knucklehead.  He knows how to make boys laugh, parents laugh, and teacher laugh.

So thank you, Mr. Ambassador, for all you've done for us over these past two year, but especially for making us laugh.


  1. My little guy loves the Trucktown series, especially Smash! Crash! I picked up a copy at the library a week ago and he already memorized several characters names. The book has been the top bedtime read choice ever since it entered our home.

  2. Thanks for the toast Mary Ann. Glad to hear you enjoy mostly the highbrow moments of Knucklehead.

  3. I was so sorry I missed him when he came to my local children's indie here in San Diego. They said he was friendly, knowledgeable and entertaining!

  4. I raised my glass of Fresca to clink with yours in celebration of Mr. Scieszka.

  5. Thanks so much for your comment, Jon. I love the down and dirty moments of Knucklehead just as much as the highbrow ones!

    Barrie, I would love to see him speak to a group of kids. I'm sure he would have them hanging on every word and rolling in the aisles with laughter.