Meg Medina is 1st Latina ambassador for Younger Individuals’s Literature

With little cash for books, the mom of acclaimed creator Meg Medina took Medina to their native library on Northern Boulevard in Flushing in Queens, New York, which “had the additional advantage” of being throughout the road from a Jack within the Field.

“My mom did one thing that I feel was a terrific technique, which was while you went to the library, it received coupled with different issues. It may be a visit to the grocery store, or it was Jack within the Field, or it was, you recognize, stopping on the sweet retailer,” mentioned Medina, whose middle-grade novel “Merci Suárez Modifications Gears” received the celebrated 2019 Newbery Medal.

The Library of Congress named Medina the nationwide ambassador for younger folks’s literature for 2023-24. Medina, who spoke to NBC Information prematurely of the announcement, is the primary Hispanic named to the place, which can take her across the nation to libraries and school rooms to encourage studying.

Meg Medina.
Meg Medina.Scott Elmquist

Medina, 59, has loads of tales to inform, many who have served as foundations for the biculturalism and multiculturalism of her well-known characters and their worlds in her award-winning books.

She mentioned she hopes she will unfold to oldsters, households, youngsters and their caretakers her mom’s knowledge of discovering methods to attach youngsters with books and libraries and encourage them to maintain studying.

‘I’m pro-kid … pro-library’

The function Medina will play is an initiative of the Library of Congress in partnership with Each Little one a Reader, a youngsters’s literacy charity with funding from the Library of Congress’ James Madison Council, the Capital Group Corporations Charitable Basis and the Greenback Common Literacy Basis.

Medina is taking over the job in a political uproar over literature geared toward younger folks and at school libraries, largely with LGBTQ themes and characters. Medina herself confronted censorship over her ebook “Yaqui Delgado Needs to Kick Your Ass,” a ebook about bullying, which received the Pura Belpré Award in 2014 and is being revealed this yr as a graphic novel.

“I’m pro-kid. I’m pro-library. I’m professional realizing in regards to the world, and to that finish I really feel the strongest place we might be in is to be in dialog with youngsters about what they’re studying,” she mentioned.

“We wish considerate folks. We wish to attempt to develop folks with empathy, who know in regards to the world to come back, who can kind opinions,” Medina mentioned, “and that often occurs by partaking them in lots of conversations that aren’t straightforward, which can be layered and that require lots of deep pondering.”

She has chosen “Cuéntame! Let’s speak books” as her private stamp for her two-year ambassadorship.

Medina’s daughter, Sandra, inspired her to make use of the Spanish-language greeting to outline her goal as ambassador.

Spanish audio system generally greet each other with “Cuéntame,” which suggests “inform me” and may also loosely imply “what’s taking place?” Medina mentioned she usually says it to her daughter when she walks within the door they usually sit down for espresso: “Bueno, cuéntame.”

However to Medina’s daughter, whose first language is English, the phrase means “story me,” mentioned Medina, who now lives in Richmond, Virginia. The phrase “cuento” means story in Spanish.

“That’s what we would like for teenagers. Story me — we wish to bathe them in our household tales. We wish to bathe them in books. We wish to story them up as a lot as we will,” Medina mentioned. “I additionally like the heat of that expression — it is an expression I take advantage of once I’m sitting with a good friend and once I’m eager about readers on this nation. I am pondering of my pals.”

Drawing on household, neighborhood — and an inspiring aunt

Medina, born in Alexandria, Virginia, was raised in Queens largely by her mom, Lidia Regla Meauten, as a result of her dad and mom divorced when she was younger. Her mom, who valued schooling, was the primary in her household to get a school schooling, which she did in Cuba. She knew little about American literature, however she purchased Medina the World E-book Encyclopedia, on installment, and took her to the library.

Medina remembers her mom reciting, by coronary heart, the famend poem of Cuban liberator Jose Martí, “Los Zapaticos de Rosa” (“The Pink Sneakers”), whereas she cooked or walked round their condo. It used to drive Medina loopy, nevertheless it stuffed her thoughts, she mentioned.

Her mom had been a instructor for elementary-level college students in Cuba, however within the U.S. she labored in a manufacturing unit making transistors. The manufacturing unit was a “sea of Latina girls,” Medina recalled.

“It was an expertise being in a room with all these girls. There was form of a simmering trauma to it, as a result of the immigrant story is a narrative of hope but in addition of loss. … They usually talked about their losses and the issues they miss and the folks they love,” she mentioned.

It was additionally a neighborhood by which the ladies shared details about who had rooster on sale or the place to name to get monetary assist papers, turning into its personal assist system.

“That, I feel, is on the root of the neighborhood work I do. I simply really feel, whether or not as an creator or member of my neighborhood right here, you aren’t by your self. … You’re taking from a neighborhood, however you give, as properly,” she mentioned.

There was her Tía Isa, who purchased the primary household automobile. Medina described her aunt, whose full title is Ysaira Metauten, as “a horrendous driver” however the one amongst her sisters who managed to be taught to drive.

“No person thought Isa would get a license, to determine to save lots of to purchase a household automobile, to get this cacharra [jalopy], as she used to name it, and drive us far and wide safely,” she mentioned.

That aunt is the inspiration for her ebook “Tía Isa Needs a Automobile,” which received the Ezra Jack Keats New Author Award. The ebook was translated into Spanish, too, and Medina’s mom was capable of learn it earlier than she died in 2013.

Different books by Medina embody “Mango, Abuela, and Me,” a Pura Belpré Award honor ebook in 2016, and “She Endured: Sonia Sotomayor,” a biography for younger readers in regards to the nation’s first Hispanic Supreme Courtroom justice.

Medina might be selling books and libraries, however she mentioned that together with her job as ambassador she additionally hopes to encourage dad and mom and households to not undervalue their oral tales of “how we got here to be, of the individuals who liked us, the folks nonetheless over there loving us [in the case of immigrant families], the individuals who imagined us earlier than we ever have been.”

Sharing oral tales, she mentioned, is pivotal for creating fundamental literacy in youngsters.

“That sense of roots is a grounding affect, and in addition it is a celebration of our expertise,” she mentioned. “No youngster begins right here, proper? There’s a complete system beneath them.”