A! Magazine for the Arts

Katherine Paterson (Photo by Samantha Loomis Paterson)

Katherine Paterson (Photo by Samantha Loomis Paterson)

Katherine Paterson Named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

January 18, 2010

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Katherine Paterson, author of "Bridge to Terabithia," was named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington on Jan. 5, 2010. Paterson, who will serve in the position through 2011, has chosen "Read for Your Life" as the theme for her platform.

"Katherine Paterson represents the finest in literature for young people," said Billington. "Her renown is national as well as international, and she will most ably fulfill the role of a national ambassador who speaks to the importance of reading and literacy in the lives of America's youth."

Paterson's first children's novel, "The Sign of the Chrysanthemum," published in 1973, was a Japanese fairy tale, based on her studies in Japan. Her writing career includes 39 published works. Her best known work is "The Bridge to Terabithia," published in 1977, and adapted for film twice (a 1985 PBS version and the Disney/Walden Media production in 2007). Paterson's most recent book is "The Day of the Pelican."

Having been named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress in 2000, Paterson's awards are numerous. She is a two-time winner of the Newbery Medal for "Bridge to Terabithia" and "Jacob Have I Loved," and received the National Book Award for "The Great Gilly Hopkins" and "The Master Puppeteer." Other accolades include the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, given by her home state of Vermont.

In addition to her new role as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, Paterson is also a member of the National Advisory Board for the Buechner Institute at King College. She has agreed to present the Annual Buechner Lecture in January of 2011.

Born in China in 1932 to Christian missionaries, Paterson spent much of her childhood there until the family was forced to flee during the Japanese invasion. Her family moved often due to their missionary work. While in school, Paterson began to write, penning many plays in which her peers acted.

In 1954 Paterson graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English from King College. She received her Master's degree from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education. After teaching for a year, Paterson spent four years in Japan as a missionary. She then traveled back to New York to pursue a second master's degree in religious education.