The XX Factor

The Honorable Katherine Paterson, Ambassador to Terabithia and Beyond

Who needs a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature? We do, if only because “read more” has been gradually replaced over the last decade with “watch less.” I was a passionate kid reader, the one with her “nose in a book,” but my only child of reading age shows no signs of following in my footsteps, and I’m not the only parent, teacher, or librarian convinced that more reading (not just less screen time) makes a better, happier, more resilient kid.

Katherine Paterson (best known for Bridge to Terabithia ) will spend the next two years essentially continuing the work she’s being honored for-encouraging readers and nonreaders alike to pick up more books. She replaces Jon Scieszka, famed for The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales , and both have been enjoying the contrast , agreeing that one key to getting kids to read is giving them a variety of different books from which to choose.

As for other advice, what Paterson says isn’t new, but it’s worth repeating: Read out loud, early and often, and don’t stop just because your kids can read to themselves. Donalyn Miller, in a recent guest blog post for the Washington Post ‘s Education section, has a few more suggestions: Give kids time to read, let them choose their material, set a good example, give them access to plenty of books. I look at our lives and our schedules, and I see that although I think we do those things, we probably don’t do them enough. Maybe the point of a reading ambassador is to usher adults back into the worlds we loved as kids-from Terabithia to Narnia to the India of the Just So Stories and the Utah of The Great Brain -and remind us to make sure our kids get ample opportunities and encouragement to make those same trips.