Newbery Honor author Jacqueline Woodson took up the mantle of the sixth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature on January 9 at the Library of Congress, during a public ceremony presided over by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. National Ambassador Emeritus Gene Luen Yang was also present, passing the torch to his successor.

The National Ambassador program was launched in 2008 by the Children’s Book Council, Every Child a Reader, and the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress as a means of fostering a love of literature in children and teens. During her two-year term as Ambassador, Woodson will visit schools and libraries nationwide, speaking with students about the joys and rewards of literacy, and sharing her platform, “Reading = Hope x Change.”

We’ve gathered a selection of photo highlights from the inauguration ceremony. All photos by the Library of Congress.

Woodson (standing, l.) welcomes attendees to the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C.

Hayden (center) presented Woodson with her official medallion, as former Ambassador Gene Luen Yang looked on.

Woodson joined Hayden in conversation about her path to becoming a writer, and the need for literature that reflects our diverse world. As a child reading Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and the works of Virginia Hamilton, Woodson said, “Suddenly I realized that, not only could I be on the page, but I could grow up to be a woman of color who wrote.”

In spite of the many devices and distractions competing for kids’ attention in the digital age, Woodson is hopeful for the future of literacy: “Young people love story, and they love being engaged.… To the young people gathered today, the power to create change is in your hearts and heads and hands.”

Taking the podium, Woodson described her platform and spoke to the transformative power of literature, saying, “Books change us. They can help us have the bigger conversations.”

During a Q A, D.C.-area students asked Woodson about her writing and inspiration. But the first two questions were more direct: “What are you going to do after you’re National Ambassador?” and “Who will be the next National Ambassador?”

Woodson with her partner, Juliet Widoff (l.), and their children, Toshi and Jackson-Leroi.

(From l.): The first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Jon Scieszka, joined Woodson, Yang, and Hayden for a group selfie. “What an honor to follow in the footsteps of groundbreaking Ambassadors before me,” Woodson said during her remarks.

To see a full video of the inauguration, click here.

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