The Library of Congress announced Monday that comics creator Gene Luen Yang has been named to the post of “National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.” He is the first graphic novelist to obtain the position, which was established in 2008 by The Children’s Book Council, Every Child a Reader, and the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. It was created “to highlight the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education, and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.” The appointment is for two years.
Yang has been creating comic books since self-publishing in 1996, and came to widespread attention in 2006 when American Born Chinese, his graphic novel published by First-Second, won accolades including the Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association, making it to the finals for the National Book Award, Young People’s Literature (the first graphic novel to do so) and earned Yang the comics’ industry’s highest award, an Eisner.
Since then, he’s worked on many properties, both commercial (Avatar: The Last Airbender comics for Dark Horse, Superman for DC Comics) and independent publishers (notably Boxers & Saints, again with First-Second).
As part of his mission, Yang will be traveling nationwide to promote the “Reading Without Walls” platform that he developed with The Children’s Book Council and First-Second.
The program, according to the announcement, involves “showing kids and teens that reading is a vital part of their lives, and speaking to parents, teachers, librarians—everyone invested in young people’s literacy—about how better to connect with kids and teens and help them love reading.”