Katherine Paterson is one of my all-time favorite children’s writers. Author of the beloved “Bridge to Terabithia,” which won the Newbery Medal for Young People’s Literature, and so many other childhood favorites, like “The Great Gilly Hopkins,” Paterson took office this week as the second National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature–and I couldn’t be happier. Her plan is to be a missionary of sorts: for urging kids to read, and urging their parents to instill a love of reading into their children.

Katherine Paterson has a missionary background, too. In the recent New York Times feature, “New Envoy’s Old Advice for Children: Read More,” on her appointment, they chronicled Ms. Paterson’s personal history (she has a Masters in Divinity from Yale by the way):
“As the daughter of missionary parents in China, [Paterson] 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. . .She does retain a bit of her parents’ missionary zeal. “I want people to be reading about children of other places and other races and religions,” she said. “I think novels are a wonderful way to do that because you get in somebody else’s psyche and you see things quite differently than the way you see things simply through your own eyes.”

Not only is Katherine Paterson one of the most wonderful writers I’ve encountered in my lifetime, but she is a wonderful speaker as well. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of hearing her speak on several occasions, and at every one, she weaves her own faith history and tradition (Paterson is a Christian) subtly and beautifully into her message. I wonder if she will continue to do this in her new role. Regardless, this position will no doubt highlight her gifts, not only as a beloved author, but as a captivating and moving speaker as well.

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