Jacqueline Woodson will be America’s next National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

Jacqueline Woodson during the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in 2015.
(Francine Orr/ Los Angeles Times)

Jacqueline Woodson, the author who won a National Book Award for her young adult memoir “Brown Girl Dreaming,” has been named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

The appointment was announced by the Library of Congress, one of three organizations that selected Woodson, along with the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader.

The Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, said she was “delighted” that Woodson agreed to take on the role.


“I have admired Jacqueline Woodson’s work for years, especially her dedication to children and young adult literature,” Hayden said. “The Library of Congress looks forward to Jacqueline’s tenure of encouraging young readers to embrace reading as a means to improve the world.”

Woodson will become the sixth ambassador when she is inaugurated Jan. 9 at the Library of Congress. Previous ambassadors include Jon Scieszka, Katherine Paterson, Walter Dean Myers, Kate DiCamillo and Gene Luen Yang.

Woodson, who is based in New York, has moved fluidly between genres. “Brown Girl Dreaming” was written in verse, and she has also written fiction for adults (the novel “Another Brooklyn”), but in total her emphasis has been on books for children and young adults, with more than 20 titles to her credit.

In the news release, Woodson said that her work would be “challenging.”

“I don’t believe there are ‘struggling’ readers, ‘advanced’ readers or ‘non’ readers,” she said. “I would 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.”

Woodson also referenced Martin Luther King Jr.’s maxim that “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,” she said. “By the way it gives them hope. By the way it opens them up to new perspectives and changes them. I am excited to have these conversations with some of the best conversationalists in our country — our young people.”

Woodson is the author of more than 30 books, including the 2000 novel “Miracle’s Boys,” which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the 2016 novel “Another Brooklyn,” a finalist for the National Book Award. She has won the Newbery Honor for children’s literature four times, and in 2015, she was named the “young people’s poet laureate” by the Poetry Foundation.

Woodson’s term as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature will last until 2019.