Walter Dean Myers named national ambassador for youth literature


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Acclaimed young adult and children’s book author Walter Dean Myers will be the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, the Library of Congress announced Tuesday. Myers, 74, has five times won the Coretta Scott King Award, been honored with the Newbery Medal twice, was a finalist for the National Book Award and received the Printz Award for his bestselling book ‘Monster.’

Myers will be the third writer to hold the post and the first African American. Brought up in Harlem, where many of his stories take place, Myers never finished high school yet remained a dedicated reader. He has published more than 100 books.


As ambassador he has adopted the platform ‘Reading Is Not Optional.’ The New York Times reported:

“I think that what we need to do is say reading is going to really affect your life,” he said in an interview at his book-cluttered house here in Jersey City, adding that he hoped to speak directly to low-income minority parents. “You take a black man who doesn’t have a job, but you say to him, ‘Look, you can make a difference in your child’s life, just by reading to him for 30 minutes a day.’ That’s what I would like to do.”

In 2009, John Scieszka, the first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, wrote in the Los Angeles Times that ‘history comes artistically to life’ in Myer’s young adult book ‘Sunrise Over Fallujah.’

The Library of Congress created the position to raise awareness about 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.’ Myers will serve a two-year term ending in 2013; he will be inaugurated at the Library of Congress in Washington on Tuesday.


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-- Carolyn Kellogg