The Library of Congress has made one of the more welcome literary announcements of the new year with the news that children’s author Kate DiCamillo is to be America’s next National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. In this post, she has to raise “national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.”
Under the selection criteria, the National Ambassador has to be an “excellent and facile communicator, dynamic and engaging personality,” and “someone who is revered by children and who has earned the respect and admiration of his or her peers.” The author of The Tale of Despereaux should have few problems on that score, though she specifically describes herself as a writer of adult as well as children’s books.
With policy-makers and educators concerned over America’s persistent lower standards of student and adult functional literacy and reading skills compared to Asian, top European, and other countries, DiCamillo’s appointment can’t come a moment too soon. One also can’t help but hope that pressure for greater functional literacy in America will also contribute to changing other statistics like the 33 percent of Americans who do not believe in evolution.