Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Walter Dean Myers named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

But not everyone is happy about it.

Commentator and former public school teacher, Alexander Nazaryan has written a scathing rebuke of the choice in a blog for the New York Daily News, calling Myers work 'insipid'.  He claims that all Myer's work does is reflect the worst of life and failing to inspire or elevate beyond it.  Instead he believes kids and teens should be reading the classics such as  Homer's The Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid. However, he doesn't ever say why kids and teens couldn't or shouldn't read both classics and contemporary literature, which is something that Myers can do in his role as ambassador. The fact that Myer’s spends a great deal of his time traveling to juvenile halls, halfways houses, inner city schools, and many other places where teens need inspiration to encourage reading and education, shows that he already is an ambassador.

As a young adult librarian I have read many of Myer’s novels and personally think that Nazaryan is not just off base, but insultingly so.  The off repeated refrain that teens need to read the classics and not the ‘trash’ that they enjoy is a classic exercise in faulty reasoning. Of course teens should read classic literature, but if it is not preceded by a love of reading, it is doomed to fail.  How do you build a love of reading, how about by encouraging teens to read authors they already love? 
You can read Nazaryan’s missive here and decide for yourself if Myer's is the best choice for ambassador.  To help listen to this NPR interview with Myers himself here. Also, check out his wonderful books in our childrens, young adult, and biography sections.  Ask a librarian and he or she will gladly help you find our full holdings of his titles.

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