By KIMBERLEY RIEKEN
The Library of Congress, for the first time in its history, has a space devoted to the reading interests of children and teens in its historic Thomas Jefferson Building.
On Oct. 23, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington welcomed a group of young people, parents and others to the new Young Readers Center, in Room LJ G-31, ground floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building. (Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday; the center is closed on all federal holidays. The phone number is 202-707-1950.)
“We want you and other young readers to have a place where you can gain an introduction to the wonders of your nation’s library,” Billington told the children gathered in the center. The Librarian, with the help of Mrs. Billington, introduced the book “Moomin Troll” by Tove Jansson, from which the Billingtons read to the children.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and her children and Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., and his son helped open the new center.
A mother of three, the congresswoman said she was honored to be at the opening. “There’s nothing like an event in Washington with children,” she said.
Stressing the importance of the Library for readers of all ages, she said, “We need to be able to inspire the next generation of readers in the greatest library in the world.”
Children gathered around and listened intently as the congresswoman and her children read one of their favorite books, “Pinkalicious” by Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann.
M.T. Anderson, who writes books for both children and teens, was the special guest author. He has written such acclaimed and popular books as “The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing” Volumes I and II (Candlewick Press), and “Me, All Alone, at the End of the World” (0 Random House). Anderson appeared at the Library’s 2007 National Book Festival.
Anderson recalled that as a child he understood that he was part of “a lineage of American readers” when he saw on library-book check-out cards the names of others who had come before him.
He also talked about how libraries can transport readers of all ages to different times and places.
“Libraries are time portals,” he said. They can take us back to the past and into the future. They can take us to different worlds, worlds we wouldn’t know, people we might not understand.”
The Librarian said he hopes the new Young Readers Center will serve the same purpose.
“We’ve got a lot of books to open a lot of windows that will let you use your imaginations,” he said.
About the Young Readers Center
Visitors to the Young Readers Center may choose to read a book from an up-to-date collection of noncirculating titles; they may browse the web’s kid-friendly sites; or they may attend programs especially designed for young readers. The center’s media room provides an opportunity for visitors to view webcasts of National Book Festival authors talking about reading, writing and books for young adults and children. The center is a special space in the Library for adults and children to enjoy together.
The Young Readers Center is one aspect of the Center for the Book’s outreach to the nation’s youth. The Center for the Book also oversees a program in which the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature (www.childrensbookambassador.com) is named as a spokesperson for the importance of reading in young people’s lives. The program is a collaborative effort with the Children’s Book Council (www.cbcbooks.org). The first ambassador is Jon Scieszka, whose two-year term will end in December 2009; a new ambassador will be named in January 2010.
The Center for the Book also oversees the new website at Read.gov, which provides reading resources especially for kids and teens (as well as adults, educators and parents). A highlight of the site is the exclusive episodic story called “The Exquisite Corpse Adventure,” a joint project with the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance (www.thencbla.org). Every two weeks a new episode and illustration will appear. Some of the nation’s best authors and illustrators for young people are writing individual chapters or providing an illustration for the year-long story.
Kimberley Rieken is an operations assistant in the Public Affairs Office.