Jacqueline Woodson, author of more than 30 titles in children’s literature, was given a hefty title of her own Thursday, when she was named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
Woodson is the sixth writer to be given the honor, awarded by the Library of Congress, the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader. Former ambassadors include Gene Luen Yang, Kate DiCamillo and Jon Scieszka.
Woodson’s books, including the novel in verse “Brown Girl Dreaming,” have won top literary prizes, and her goal for her term as ambassador is even more impressive.
“I think it would be so great that by the end of the two-year term if people along all lines of economic class really knew the value of libraries and books in their lives,” she told KidsPost.
Working toward that goal will involve lots of conversations with kids across the country. She hopes to spark those conversations with her platform, “Reading = Hope x Change (What’s Your Equation?).”
“You go into a book looking for some hope in there,” Woodson said from her home in Brooklyn, New York. “It’s something that happens to most readers.”
Reading can encourage kids’ hopefulness and their interest in changing the world, she said.
Woodson also would like to steer people away from using labels such as “struggling reader” or “advanced reader.” The labels aren’t helpful, she said, because they “assume there is a normal.”
Being labeled a struggling reader is an issue that Woodson, 54, experienced firsthand as a child and included in “Brown Girl Dreaming.”
Her own children, a 9-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter, started reading at different ages and are very different readers, she said. But Woodson said she and her partner have always made books a part of their lives.
“We’ve always read to both of them. We’ve always listened to [audiobooks],” she said.
And when she and her kids were unsure what to read next, Woodson has turned to others in the children’s literature community. She said she would like people of all ages to have help from a similar “village of readers.”
“It would be nice to get to that point where there’s a book for everyone.”