Monday, January 4, 2010

Drive and Jon Scieszka?

How Drive and Jon Scieszka go together (or, how my mind works)...

I'm a big fan of Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind, so when his new book on motivation, Drive, came out on December 29, I download a copy to my Kindle (read an excerpt here). Shortly afterward, a story on NPR titled, How E-Books Will Change Reading And Writing by Lynn Neary was posted. The reporter interviewed several writers who think,

...traditional books will still be around for a long time, and that some of the changes that may occur in writing will be more evolutionary than revolutionary. But it's hard to know whether traditional books — and the people who read and write them — will have much influence on the culture in the future.

However, in an article for SLJ, YA author John Green states that he thinks readers, especially librarians, will have a huge impact on the future of book publishing..

Now take this flat, open marketplace and add cheap, effective e-readers as ubiquitous as iPods. There is no longer such a thing as “collection development,” because even the tiniest library’s collection includes every book ever written so long as it pays a fee for database access. Any patron can walk in and download a book in 30 seconds...How, in this unmoderated sea of crap, would anyone ever find anything worth reading? Through friends and family and advertisements, of course. But also through authorities. When overwhelmed by choice, people turn to gatekeepers, begging them to find the good stuff. And in the world of children’s and young adult literature—particularly in a world where publishers and bookstores don’t define the marketplace—you [librarians] are the authorities. And if we find ourselves in an unregulated YouTube of a book market, good stories will need you even more than they do now.

John Green is SO right! Our school and public librarians are our unofficial ambassadors of good literature for children and young adults. And of course, this (finally!) brings me to Jon Scieszka, our official National Ambassador of Young People's Literature, bestowed by the Library of Congress. I remember when the creation of the position was announced. I wondered who, out of all the fabulous children's/YA authors we are so lucky to have, would the Library of Congress choose to be the first ambassador. When Jon Scieszka was announced, I was elated! He was the perfect choice!

In an interview with SLJ, Jon was asked, "As our kids’ book ambassador, what will you do?" He responded,

A big part of my platform will be to reach reluctant readers and to put their parents at ease, especially those parents who are worried about testing or their kids not reading. I can be the official guy who says, “Take a deep breath; relax. Let’s not freak out about these tests. We know kids are having trouble reading. But we’ve got the answer for you. Let’s stop testing kids and beating them with a stick. Let’s try the carrot. Let’s let them read good books, because we’ve got a lot of them. Let’s let kids enjoy reading.”

How well did he do? Just read a few of the many blogger posts found around the kidlitosphere collected by A Year of Reading and you will get a sense of the impact he has had.

In a vlog post promoting Drive, Daniel Pink asks two simple questions that will change your life. The first is based on a statement made by Clare Boothe Luce (one of the first congresswomen) to President Kennedy: "A great man is a sentence."  An example given in the video is that Abraham Lincoln's sentence would be, "He preserved the union and freed the slaves." According to the video, "If you want to find your true motivation, ask yourself, 'What's your sentence?'"
What's Jon Scieszka's sentence? "He was [and still is] a tireless advocate for young people and reading, expanding adults' understanding of the need for choice and variety in reading material, and doing it all with grace, style and humor."

We love you, Jon!

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