Jon ScieszkaWhoa and hooray – here we see what happens when Jon Scieszka gets busy as the Library of Congress’s new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. He’s written a great column for New York’s Daily News, promoting his belief that adults don’t need to go into a nervous tizzy over the fact that American kids are reading less than they have in previous decades. Instead, he says, we simply need to make certain kids know that reading “for pleasure” can be fun. When you’re young, who wants to do something that isn’t enjoyable?

Here’s my favorite quote, about an incident from the ten years he spent teaching elementary school:

I once casually told my class of second-graders that we didn’t need to finish every book we started. If we didn’t like it, we could start another, find something we liked.

They were stunned. “You can do that?”

And so for the next week, of course, no child finished any book.

Scieszka believes that kids should be given access to read whatever they want. “Avoid demonizing television, computer games, and new technologies,” he says. “Electronic media may compete for kids’ attention, but we are not going to get kids reading by badmouthing other entertainment.” He knows that if we do, we’re falling into the classic trap previous generations did of making the things the adults loved most, and the things that were “best for children,” the things that kids wanted most to avoid. And look at what happened to us.

(Thanks to Jen Robinson’s Book Page for the tip.)