Can books connect young people the way social media does?
Kate DiCamillo thinks so and has made it her mission to connect youth through reading.
The Library of Congress announced this morning that the author – DiCamillo is best known for her movie-adapted “Because of Winn-Dixie,” and the Newbery Medal-winning “The Tale of Despereaux” – is the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature in 2014 and 2015. She will be sworn in Jan. 10 and will use her platform to promote reading to young adults.
Her theme for her ambassadorship is “stories connect us.”
“The whole thing is pretty intimidating; but it is also deeply, deeply gratifying, because for the next two years, I will get to go around the country talking about what matters to me, and what matters to me is this: people connecting through stories,” DiCamillo said on her Facebook page.
The New York Times describes DiCamillo as a “star of the publishing world, a winner of the Newbery Medal, and a reliable best seller” who “writes fluidly across genres and age groups.”
As a child growing up in Florida with frequent bouts of illnesses, DiCamillo found a connection to the outside world through books such as “The Twenty-One Balloons.”
As an adult, she moved to Minnesota, where she fell into a job as a picker in a book warehouse. There, in the children’s section, she fell in love with children’s books and pursued a career as a young adult author.
Her first book, “Because of Winn-Dixie,” is about the deep connection between a lonely little girl and a dog named after a Southern supermarket chain. It went on to receive a Newbery Honor and a film adaptation.
She has since written nearly 20 books that explore both the melancholy and the magic of childhood. Her most recent book is the young adult novel “Flora & Ulysses," about a girl and her sidekick, a squirrel with superpowers. The book is already an acclaimed bestseller.
In her new role as ambassador, DiCamillo plans to travel the country encouraging shared reading experiences, such as “community reading projects where kids in cities and towns all read the same book,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
The special position known as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature was created by the Library of Congress in 2008 to raise awareness about children’s literacy and promote reading among young people. Previous ambassadors have included Jon Scieszka, Katherine Paterson, and Walter Dean Myers.
DiCamillo, an enthusiastic champion of reading and a natural ambassador to youth, will promote books as a way to connect young people the way social media can.
“When we read together, we connect. Together, we see the world. Together, we see each other," she says on the website of the Library of Congress.