Award-winning author Walter Dean Myers was named the new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature earlier this week. The position was established in 2008 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 press release issued by the Library of Congress reports:
"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."
Myers selection to the post represents an effort to appeal to more young adult readers. (He succeeds Katherine Paterson, the novelist best known for Bridge to Terabithia, and the first appointee, Jon Scieszka.) Myers writes both fiction and nonfiction, including biographies and poetry, but is most well-known for his fiction featuring African American teens.
He chose the banner theme "Reading is Not Optional" as his platform for his term as ambassador. In an interview with the New York Times, Myers states: "People still try to sell books that way -- as 'books can take you to foreign lands.' We've given children this idea that reading and books are a nice option, if you want that kind of thing. I hope we can get over that idea."
Myers most recent work is a collaboration with his son, Christopher Myers: We Are America: A Tribute From the Heart, a book of poetry highlighting events and people that have shaped America, including Chief Tecumseh, President Abraham Lincoln, and musician Jimi Hendrix. The father-son team discuss We Are America in the video below.