This post was written by Leah Knobel. It was originally posted on the Library of Congress blog.
Meg Medina, a writer whose work explores how culture and identity intersect through the eyes of children and young adults, today was named as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2023-2024, the Library of Congress and Every Child a Reader announced.
Medina, a Cuban-American, is the eighth author to hold the position and the first of Latina heritage to do so. She succeeds Jason Reynolds, whose term stretched from 2020 through 2022.
“I am delighted Meg Medina will serve as the next National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature,” said Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress. “Meg’s warmth and openness, coupled with her long-running commitment to young readers, libraries and librarians, is extraordinary. I look forward to the ways she will invite young people — especially Spanish and bilingual speakers — to share their favorite books and stories.”
Medina’s middle-grade novel, “Merci Suárez Changes Gears,” the first of three books in a trilogy about the Suárez family, received the 2019 Newbery Medal and was named a notable children’s book of the year by the New York Times Book Review. Her young adult novels include “Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass,” which won the 2014 Pura Belpré Author Award and will be published in 2023 as a graphic novel illustrated by Mel Valentine Vargas; “Burn Baby Burn,” which was long-listed for the National Book Award; and “The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind.”Her most recent picture book, “Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away,” received multiple honors, including the 2021-2022 Charlotte Zolotow Award.
Raised in Queens, New York, Medina, 59, now lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia.
“It’s an enormous honor to advocate for the reading and writing lives of our nation’s children and families,” Medina said. “I realize the responsibility is critical, but with the fine examples of previous ambassadors to guide me, I am eager to get started on my vision for this important work. More than anything, I want to make reading and story-sharing something that happens beyond classroom and library walls. I want to tap into books and stories as part of everyday life, with all of us coming to the table to share the tales that speak to us and that broaden our understanding of one another.”
For her two-year term, Medina will engage readers across the country through her new platform, “!Cuéntame!: Let’s talk books.” Inspired by the Spanish phrase that friends and families use when catching up with one another, ¡Cuéntame! encourages conversations about books that reflect the readers’ experiences and those that expose readers to new perspectives.
Medina’s work will include encouraging families and young people to build relationships with their local libraries. She’ll also create materials to introduce and connect readers with authors across a range of styles and genres. During in-person visits with students, she will discuss her work and host book talks.
Hayden will inaugurate Medina into the role on Jan. 24 at 10:30 a.m., in a ceremony at the Library. Reynolds will be on stage as well. Local school groups will be in attendance, too. The event will be livestreamed on the Library’s YouTube page.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with the selection of Meg Medina as the next ambassador,” said Carl Lennertz, executive director of Every Child a Reader and the Children’s Book Council. “She will inspire young people of all ages over the next two years with her energy, ideas and passion for reading and storytelling.”
The National Ambassador is chosen for their contributions to young people’s literature, the ability to relate to children and teens, and dedication to fostering children’s literacy. The selection, made by the Librarian, is based on nominations from a diverse pool of distinguished professionals in children’s publishing and from an independent selection committee comprising educators, librarians, booksellers and children’s literature experts.
The program was established in 2008 by the Library, the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader. It is supported by the The Library of Congress James Madison Council, The Capital Group Companies Charitable Foundation and Dollar General Literacy Foundation.
Previous National Ambassadors include authors Jon Scieszka (2008–2009), Katherine Paterson (2010–2011), Walter Dean Myers (2012–2013), Kate DiCamillo (2014–2015), Gene Luen Yang (2016–2017), Jacqueline Woodson (2018–2019) and Jason Reynolds (2020-2022).