This month, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jacqueline Woodson embarked on a tour of Alaska, sharing with children her passion for literacy and her platform as ambassador: “Reading = Hope x Change.”
Shaina Birkhead, associate executive director of the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader, which co-sponsors the National Ambassador program along with the Library of Congress, said, “We are just so thankful to Jacqueline for making this long trip cross-country to make the hearts soar of every child who heard her speak and personally engage, as she has done during her entire ambassadorship. And a thank you, as always, to the librarians who give so much time every day for the love of reading.”
We’ve gathered a selection of highlights from Woodson’s school and library appearances.
On July 9, Woodson visited Glacier Valley Elementary –in Juneau, where she met with more than 100 children in a program for kids from low-income areas. The program is designed to give children supplementary education during the summer, and is free to all who attend. The Juneau Public Library provided classroom copies of Woodson’s books for students’ use during the five-week program. Everyone also received the official National Ambassador bookmark, created for Woodson by National Ambassador emeritus Gene Luen Yang.
M.J. Grande, youth services librarian at Juneau Public Library, said of Woodson’s visit, “Sharing her presence, in addition to her words, was of inestimable value to our community. It was a day of dreams coming true.”
That evening, Woodson stopped by the Mendenhall Valley Library in Juneau for an event that was open to the public. Here, the National Ambassador reads aloud from her 2012 picture book Each Kindness, illustrated by E. B. Lewis.
Mary Jo Torgeson, library director at Anchorage Public Library, with Woodson at Loussac Public Library for a public program.
On July 11, the author held an event at the Muldoon Library in Anchorage. Woodson delivered a talk and signed books for children.
Mountain View Public Library in Anchorage also welcomed Woodson on July 11. As with her Muldoon appearance, the author met with 150 eight-to-12-year-olds in Boys & Girls Clubs, Salvation Army Summer Camp, and YMCA summer programs. Each child received the National Ambassador bookmark, and the Anchorage Public Library Foundation provided funds to purchase one of Woodson’s books for all children in attendance. Before her arrival, librarians used two of the exercises from the Reading = Hope x Change activity kit to connect the kids with her platform as ambassador.
Linda Klein, youth services librarian at Anchorage Public Library, said of the event, “The Anchorage School District reports that more than 50% of its students perform below proficient in English Language Arts. Thanks to the Anchorage Library Foundation, we were able to purchase 125 copies of Brown Girl Dreaming to give to these youth for free. Some children opened up about their own lives, some whose fathers were not in their lives, some who felt bullied, but also those who felt blessed by their families and especially grandparents.” In addition to discussing her work, Woodson answered questions about the civil rights movement. “On a personal note,” Klein said, “this is one of the highlights of my career as a librarian, and as a reader. I couldn’t believe that Jacqueline Woodson was actually in my library! The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature is a program that makes a difference.”