A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
The Library of Congress has named a Cuban American writer as its new national ambassador for young people's literature. Here's NPR's Julie Depenbrock.
JULIE DEPENBROCK, BYLINE: Meg Medina is the first Latinx ambassador in the program's history.
MEG MEDINA: I'm a children's book author. I write picture books, middle grade and YA.
DEPENBROCK: Medina's middle grade novel, "Merci Suarez Changes Gears," won the prestigious Newbery Medal for children's literature in 2019.
MEDINA: My books always center on three things. It's usually growing up, culture and family and how those three things intersect. You know, sometimes they're beautiful intersections, and sometimes they're really bumpy - right? - as we're growing up.
DEPENBROCK: She takes over the ambassador role from young adult writer Jason Reynolds. Medina's focus is on Latinx stories in an industry where only a small percentage of children's books are written by Latinx authors. Medina says now, though, it feels like things are moving in a better direction.
MEDINA: That's been one of the encouraging things of watching children's literature. The community sort of developed in recent years that we're getting more varied stories that really match who's in the seats in our schools right now.
DEPENBROCK: She says her responsibility in this two-year term with the Library of Congress is to help kids construct their reading lives.
MEDINA: The power of reading is in its ability to help people sort of see themselves in the pages.
DEPENBROCK: Medina will engage with readers across the country with her platform, Cuentame, which encourages book discussions beyond the classroom.
MEDINA: Cuentame is so tell me. Tell me about books. Tell me about what's going on in your library. Tell me about what your favorite thing was and talking to kids and families about how we use books to connect.
DEPENBROCK: Medina says her focus is around the celebration of story.
MEDINA: And I want to make sure that families remember that their own story matters as well. So not only reading books, but sharing family stories and family histories has to be important also. It's another way for us to connect with kids around their own story.
DEPENBROCK: The Library of Congress inaugurates Medina as the newest ambassador for young people's literature on January 24.
Julie Depenbrock, NPR News.
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