The NCBLA Board of Directors



Katherine Paterson

Former United States National Ambassador for Young People's Literature


The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance thanks Katherine Paterson, a Vice-President of the NCBLA Board of Directors, for her service as the 2010-11 United States National Ambassador for Young People's Literature!

Quick Links:

Official Library of Congress United States National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Press Release

Summoned by Books: An NCBLA Interview with Katherine Paterson, United States National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and Vice-President of The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance

United States National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Information

The Center for the Book at the Library of Congress

The Children’s Book Council

The Exquisite Corpse Adventure
   
Katherine Paterson is a contributor to this NCBLA/Library of Congress reading outreach project.

Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out
   
Katherine Paterson is a contributor to this NCBLA historical literacy project.


Katherine Paterson did not always want to be a writer. She confesses, “When I was ten, I wanted to be either a movie star or a missionary. When I was twenty, I wanted to get married and have lots of children.” 

In between dreams, Paterson studied at King College in Bristol, Tennessee, where she spent the majority of her time reading English and American literature. She also taught at a rural school in northern Virginia, where she explains, “almost all my children were like Jesse Aarons [a character in Bridge to Terabithia].” 

Pursuing her missionary dream, Paterson studied Bible and Christian education in graduate school in Richmond, Virginia and hoped to be a missionary in China. But as Paterson describes, “China was closed to Americans in 1957, and a Japanese friend urged me to go to Japan instead.”

Paterson then spent four years happily living and working among the Japanese-with whom she thought she would spend her life. “But when I returned to the States for a year of study in New York,” Paterson reveals, “I met a young Presbyterian pastor who changed the direction of my life once again.” They married and soon Paterson fulfilled her dream of having lots of children.

It is then that she eventually began writing. A church friend took her to a creative writing course-and after some time the novel she wrote in that course was published. Paterson’s books have earned her two Newbery medals (Bridge to Terabithia (1978), Jacob Have I Loved (1981)), two National Book awards (The Master Puppeteer (1977), The Great Gilly Hopkins (1979)), a Boston Globe-Horn Book Picture Book Award (The Tale of the Madarin Ducks (1990)), and many other accolades. Her most recent books are The Invisible Child: On Reading and Writing Books for Children (2001) and The Same Stuff as Stars (2002).

She remembers the summer of 1953 as a turning point in the way she viewed the world. Although she had lived in China as a child, it wasn't until that summer that she became aware of the ways the rest of the world looked at the United States, certainly with gratitude for U.S. help in World War II but also with resentment. Many people in Europe thought that the United States was rich and arrogant. They also had trouble understanding the U.S. paranoia with regard to the Communist countries. The sudden death of a child in Bristol was an ominous foreshadowing for the death of Lisa Hill who, many years later, inspired the writing of Bridge to Terabithia.

She is a Vice President of the NCBLA.

Read an interview with Katherine Paterson here.

Read Katherine Paterson's speech The Child in the Attic here.