Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Beloved Children's Author Takes on New Role

When I saw the headline "Katherine Paterson, 77, Takes Over as Ambassador for Young People's Literature" my intial reaction was "Something's wrong here. 77 is not young."

It was a silly first impression but I didn't understand anything about this headline. Off the top of my head I didn't recognize that Katherine Paterson is the beloved children's author of The Bridge to Teribithia or that the Ambassador position was one that simply encourages young people to read and parents to read to their children.

Intrigued, I clicked through to the New York Times website and dove in. I was pleasantly surprised by what I learned and smiled to myself as Paterson expressed a viewpoint of children's literature that I myself wholeheartedly share:

Ms. Paterson, who is perhaps best known for the novel “Bridge to Terabithia,” said it was reading that informed her future writing self. As the daughter of missionary parents in China, she read her way through her parents’ library of children’s classics by A. A. Milne, Beatrix Potter, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Kenneth Grahame and Frances Hodgson Burnett. “That is where the friends were,” she said, evoking her lonely childhood.

Now, as ambassador — a joint appointment by the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book and Every Child a Reader, a nonprofit group affiliated with the Children’s Book Council, a trade association for children’s book publishers — Ms. Paterson hopes to share the unfettered pleasure that reading can deliver.

“I think of all the joy reading has given me,” she said. “It is not just because it is good for you, but because it is good.”


With her silver hair cut in a feathered bob, Ms. Paterson, who drives a gray Prius and lives and works in a cluttered 1830s-era farmhouse, is a mother of four and grandmother of seven.

But it wasn’t her experience as a mother that gave her the ability to tap into the emotional landscape of children. “People often say, ‘Now that your children are grown up, how can you still write for children?’ ” she said. “And I say, ‘I never wrote for them.’ I always write for the child in me, and she is still in there.”

Read more about Paterson as Ambassador HERE

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