Katherine Paterson
Photo: Getty/Leigh Vogel
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JP: Let's talk about being the Library of Congress' National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Is that hard to fit on a business card?

KP: (laughter) I don't have a business card, as you might guess.

JP: What do you have? A ceremonial sash, or...?

KP: I have a medal. A large, pewter metal.

JP: You wear that a lot around home?

KP: No, in fact, when they sent the official photographer to take my picture and it wasn't until he was driving away that I realized I should have worn the medal for the picture. I did wear it yesterday because I was going to speak to a group of children and I thought they might like to see the medal.

JP: You definitely gave all of us a love of reading. Did you do anything specific?

KP: Well, I had four children in four years. I was not a well-organized person, and I just sort of made it through the days, but I have often thought I did two things right for my children—I really loved them and I read to them a lot. And the reading was as much for me as it was for you because it was a time when we all got quiet and we read something wonderful together. And you were all great listeners, I must say, as wiggly as you were.

JP: And you are obviously taking that message out to the masses with this new national ambassador role. And you have been doing that your entire life. How does this new role change how you take the message to your fans, to educators and to the world at large?

KP: You're right, I am doing what I have been doing for the past 30 years, as far as talking to people about the importance of reading and the wonderful world of children's and young adult literature—taking the message about how important it is to read and the wonderful world of children's and young adult literature, which some people don't know that much about. It just gives me a title to go with it. I think people like the idea that we are paying this much attention to children's and young adult literature.

JP: Let's talk a little bit about libraries and digital developments in the context of kids and books. Do you still get that special feeling when you walk into a library and connect with a special librarian?

KP: I love libraries. I truly, truly love libraries. I was a little bit taken aback when my local library asked me several years ago if they could name the new children's room after me. And I said, "You know I am not dead yet, don't you?" But it is kind of lovely to have a children's library after me. Children have to have access to books, and a lot of children can't go to a store and buy a book. We need not only our public libraries to be funded properly and staffed properly, but our school libraries. Many children can't get to a public library, and the only library they have is a school library. I really want in these next two years to talk about the importance of libraries for children.

JP: Do you see the greater influence with computers and the advent of e-readers? Do you see that having an impact on kids reading as it does with adults?

KP: Well, I am that much older than you are. I like the feel of a book, and I like to go to bed with a book. But all of our grandchildren have electronic things, but they are all wonderful readers.

I had fun because when they were trying to make me a proper ambassador, they said, "You should have books you recommend," and someone said, "But you are only recommending dead writers." I said, "I have so many friends who are writers, and if I mention one and not the other, I'd lose my friend." And they said, "Why don't you just ask your grandchildren?" And now I have this wonderful list of books recommended by my grandchildren to share.

What are the 5 books Katherine Paterson can't live without?

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