Gene Luen Yang was appointed the National Ambassador of Young People's Literature in 2016. Upon taking the reigns, Yang proposed a platform coined Reading Without Walls, a program focusing on expanding the range of books children read by asking them to step outside the formats and genres they usually pick. On January 26, 2017, Publisher's Weekly reported that what started as a pilot program has scheduled to launch and reoccur annually beginning April 2017.
After being tested as a pilot program during 2016, the formal launch of this annual program will make it easier for schools, libraries, and booksellers to host Reading Without Walls events to further expand the choices available to their readers. Although the official launch isn't until April, organizers of Reading Without Walls events can visit the website now and find a video of Yang discussing the program as well as a variety of downloadable support materials, including physical kits, reading lists, buttons, badgets, stickers, and posters.
Reading Without Walls is designed to "celebrate reading and diversity" and encourage young readers to pick books outside of their personal experience. Yang describes the program as encouragment for children to "read a book about a character who doesn't look like [them]," or to read "a book about a topic [they] don't know much about," or "a book in a format that they don't normally read for fun." After completing this challenge, children are presented with certificates and other rewards to makr their literary achievement.
Yang has reported that feedback stemming from Reading Without Walls has sparked interest in expanding the program to include "Reading in Other Languages" to help further challenge young readers to explore the world through literature. Also available through Reading Without Walls are kits to help children create their own poetry, novels, and comics.
The program is a partnership with the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, Every Child a Reader, the Children's Book Council, and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group.
About National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang
Gene Luen Yang began drawing comic books in the fifth grade; he began making comics professionally over fifteen years ago. In 2006, his graphic novel American Born Chinese (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group/First Second Books) became the first graphic novel to be a finalist for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award. It also won an Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album. In 2013, Boxers & Saints (Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group/First Second Books), his two-volume graphic novel about the Boxer Rebellion, was a National Book Award finalist and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature. Gene has also won an Eisner for The Eternal Smile, a collaboration with Derek Kirk Kim. He is the author of the Secret Coders series (with artist Mike Holmes) and has written for the hit comics Avatar: The Last Airbender and Superman. Yang lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more at geneyang.com.