Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Exploring our world - reading to broaden our horizons

This week, the wonderful Katherine Paterson was named as the new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.  She is a multi-award winning author, and a life-long advocate for peace, justice, universal literacy and educational opportunities. Katherine Paterson has chosen "Read for Your Life" as the theme for her platform.  For the next two years as ambassador, she will bring her unending sense of hope, optimism and zeal to encourage children to expand their horizons through reading.  As she said recently in The New York Times,
I want people to be reading about children of other places and other races and religions. I think novels are a wonderful way to do that because you get in somebody else’s psyche and you see things quite differently than the way you see things simply through your own eyes.
Paterson has won just about every award imaginable for children's literature, including two National Book Awards and two Newbery Awards. She is the recipient of what is commonly known as the "Nobel Prize for children's literature," the Hans Christian Anderson Award, given to an author whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children's literature.

The Bridge to Terabithia, for which Paterson won the Newbery Award in 1978, is one of my favorite books.  It celebrates friendship and imagination, but also presents a child going through tremendous grief at the death of his best friend.

Paterson encourages parents to read aloud to the children, especially making sure to continue after children have learned to read themselves.  "Don't stop reading aloud when children start reading for themselves. If children want to take turns with the reading, that's fine, but don't make it mandatory. Reading at home should be an enjoyable shared experience, not a chore or a test." (NCBLA interview)

We can share the joy of reading with our children as we read aloud to them.  But reading aloud also offers more opportunities. It is through family reading that we can often broach difficult subject with children.  Paterson said in an interview in the Horn Book (November, 2001):
I found with my own children, the books we read together became sort of a vocabulary for us and a way of talking about things that were hard to talk about. Sometimes all you have to do is invoke the name of the character, and the other person knows how you feel. I’d love to feel that my books were used that way or read that way.
The National Ambassador for Young People's Literature is named by the Librarian of Congress for a two-year term, based on recommendations from a selection committee representing many segments of the book community. The selection criteria include the candidate's contribution to young people's literature and ability to relate to children. The position was created to raise national awareness of 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.

A huge thank you to Ambassador Paterson for the beautiful gifts she has given us through her stories and through her time and wisdom.  We look forward to a wonderful two years of your hope, grace, wit and charm encouraging us to bring reading into our families' and our children's lives.


  1. I am also looking forward to these next two years. The last two were marvelous and I'm sure Paterson will not disappoint.

  2. Thank you for such an informative piece about the role of National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. I didn't know much about this. I just found your blog today and am excited to find such a good resource for kid book recommendations!