Jon ScieszkaI’m enormously happy to see that the Librarian of Congress has named Jon Scieszka to a new position as the US “national ambassador for young people’s literature.” The job, developed by the Children’s Book Council with the Library of Congress, appears to be based on the Children’s Laureate program that’s been going on in the UK since 1999.

Why create this position? Think of all the surveys and studies that show that Americans are reading less, most notably the National Endowment for the Arts’ To Read or Not to Read. It’s clear that in this multi-distracting video-game-filled time, American kids often behave as if reading just isn’t important:

“There’s a huge population of kids who would be or can be readers, but just choose not to,” said Mr. Scieszka, who runs a Web-based literacy program aimed at boys called Guys Read. “Kids see it just as a school activity or something that just can’t compete with a Nintendo Wii or just hanging out and text messaging your friends. Parents and booksellers and teachers are dying for some help.”

Scieszka, the author of many funny books such as The Stinky Cheese Man and the Time Warp Trio series, is a popular speaker with a just-twisted-enough sense of humor. He’s been long fascinated and challenged by why boys in modern America aren’t reading much, and many of his works, including his upcoming “Trucktown” series, have been designed to be boy-friendly. The first Trucktown picture book, Smash! Crash!, appears next week.

The Cheerios division of General Mills – Cheerios has been running a “Spoonfuls of Stories” promotion to distribute books for several years – is sponsoring the program to the tune of $50,000. Scieszka will receive a $25,000 stipend for traveling the country and talking to kids, parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers, and others about things we all can be doing to promote reading among young people.

It looks like a great program, and I think Scieszka is a great choice to launch it.

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