When Gene Luen Yang was named National Ambassador to Young People’s Literature last year—the first graphic novelist given the honor—one of his primary projects was the Reading Without Walls program, which encourages children to read outside of their comfort zone. “Walls are only a big thing if you’ve never crossed them or scaled them,” he told The Washington Post at the time. “There are a lot of walls between cultures that reading can help bridge; reading is a way to get to know people on a deeper level.” Now, as he begins the second year of his two-year term, Yang is working to finalize the program and launch it as an annual event this April.
Thanks to the efforts of Yang, the Children’s Book Council (CBC), the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress (CFB), Every Child a Reader, and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group (MCPG), Reading Without Walls Month will take place annually starting April 2017. The program encourages young readers to read diversely and explore the world through books. Schools, libraries, and booksellers frame the program as an educational challenge, rewarding children for completing one of the following goals:
Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like them or live like them; read a book about a topic they don’t know much about; and read a book in a format that they don’t normally read for fun, such as a chapter book, an audio book, a graphic novel, or a book in verse.
“Reading is a fantastic way to open your minds and hearts to new people, places, and ideas,” says Yang, two-time National Book Award finalist for his graphic novels American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints, and recipient of the 2016 MacArthur Genius Grant. “Through reading, I’ve met new friends, learned new facts, and become a better person.”
“The Library of Congress is proud to support Gene’s National Ambassador initiative,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “Books can be windows on other places, experiences, and cultures. The National Ambassador program, through its current ambassador, is encouraging readers to leave their comfort zone to experience worlds unlike their own.”