Are you a kid who loves to read? Then children's book author Jon Scieszka is the guy for you. Are you someone who'd rather empty the cat's litter box than pick up a book? Then Jon Scieszka is the guy for you, too!
He used to be a schoolteacher, but then he began writing books that even reluctant readers rave about.
You might know some stories by Mr. Scieszka (pronounced "SHESS-ka"). Among other zany books, he's written "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales," "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs," and the "Time Warp Trio" series.
But why all the buzz about Mr. Scieszka now? Last month, he was appointed by the Library of Congress to be the first "national ambassador for young people's literature."
Mr. Scieszka loves talking with kids about books, but he also likes his cool new job title and what might go along with it.
"I've ... done a lot of speculating on what kind of ambassador stuff I should ask for," he joked in a phone interview. "I was thinking about a jet pack with a big, world-wrestling kind of belt: National ambassador – here he comes!"
He feels honored to fill the new position. Before, he said, he and some other authors who write funny kids' books would get together and complain, "Aw, nobody gives us any awards. They give [awards] to all the books that make you cry...."
But by being ambassador, Mr. Scieszka added, "I got a giant award [as] the guy who makes up books that are goofy! I think we struck a blow for the goofy books."
There are many kinds of reading materials that kids can be enthusiastic about, he said. So one of his goals is to prompt grown-ups to let kids explore all the options.
When he was a student and later a teacher, he noticed that often kids are encouraged to pick up literary novels but not much else. "[T]hen I realized I enjoy all different kinds of reading," he said. "I like to read short humor pieces. Or I love to read big historical novels or just history – or science ... [and] I think a lot of kids like all those different things."
Mr. Scieszka also wants to stimulate boys' interest in reading. .In the past few decades, boys haven't always done as well as girls in reading at school. So he set out to connect with boys' unique reading style.
His website, www.guysread.com, encourages boys to choose what they like to read. And it urges parents, teachers, and librarians to let them! Several public libraries have set up "Guys Read" programs and book clubs to help guys hop on the reading bandwagon.
Mr. Scieszka likes that kids have freewheeling tastes in reading. Whether it's true stories, science fiction, graphic novels, or even comic books that you like, then you should go for it, he believes.
And what's his advice to kids? "Read all Jon Scieszka's books." No, wait – he was just kidding.
"Find something you like to read," he added more seriously. "There's plenty of different stuff out there."