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Kate DiCamillo: Ambassador for Summer Reading

By Angie Manfredi
 | May 26, 2016

Kate DiCamillo-052616From her time as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature to her work promoting summer reading, Kate DiCamillo is a champion for kids. Talking with Kate about writing, her latest bestseller Raymie Nightingale, and her work in getting kids—and the adults who care for them—excited about summer reading was an honor.


How can adults be summer reading champions for the kids in their lives?

One thing is to take kids to the library! My mother did that for me and my brother. Parents can make the decision to get to the public library once a week. You can even load up the car and take all the kids in your whole neighborhood to the library—my mom used to do that for our neighborhood.

That leads right into my next question! Kids often want to know about what grown-ups were like as children. So, Kate, did you participate in summer reading programs as a kid?

Yes, I did. They had prizes for reading, can you believe it? I got a prize for the thing I most wanted to do. It seemed ridiculous to get prizes for reading. I participated in summer reading every summer, because the library was always a haven.

Related to that—what are some of your favorite memories of your childhood library or, especially, of your school libraries?

When you say “school library,” I can remember it all exactly. I can remember where I’d stand to check out books. I was given free reign of the library, and that’s very important for kids: choice. Choice is important for the kids, like me, who loved to read, but it’s also important for the kids who don’t know they love to read—yet. The library was a place I could be seen for who I was. There was always a sense of safety and of being seen.

That’s so true! Why are libraries especially important for kids during the summer?

Choice! It’s choice. You can read for yourself. And the privilege of the library is you can go anywhere into a library and they’ll help you. It’s a privilege, but it’s also a joy. It’s astonishing that a public library is there—you can walk in and read whatever you want, it’s such a joy!

Because we are talking about summers, may I ask why you chose to set your new book, Raymie Nightingale, during the summer?

Ha! That’s a good question! Raymie isn’t autobiographical, but it certainly has autobiographical elements. It has something in children’s lives that perhaps happens only in summer: long, unoccupied stretches of time.

Yes, the narrative couldn’t have happened if it wasn’t summer! Their friendships, their adventures—summer helps it all unfold.

Yes, exactly. It is as close as I’ve ever come to putting myself in a book, but I’m not sure I thought about why it was set in the summer!

Thank you so much for chatting with me today! I always like to wrap up with a question from a kid! One of my patrons, Audrey, is sure that she is your biggest fan. The Tale of Despereaux is her favorite book of all time. She wants know why you started writing.

What a good question. It’s because I was a reader. It’s because I was sick as a kid and learned to live in my head. It’s because my father left. I often say I like a hole to write into, an absence. You get told stories and so you tell them back. I became a writer because I love stories and stories matter.


What an amazing way to end an interview with a favorite writer!

In May, DiCamillo’s publisher, Candlewick Press, hosted a free live webcast with DiCamillo from Edgewood School in Woodridge, IL, where she talked about the importance of summer reading and encouraged students nationwide to sign up for the summer reading program at their local public libraries. Response was tremendous: 975 schools signed up for the webcast, with an estimated reach based on classroom tallies at around 50,000 students and viewers in all 50 states.

Hear more about Kate's role as a National Summer Reading Champion, as well as her Top Ten Reasons for joining a summer reading program and her 2016 recommended summer reads here.

Angie Manfredi is the Head of Youth Services for the Los Alamos County Library System in Los Alamos, NM. She loves when children shout “LIBRARY LADY!” at her in the grocery store and is dedicated to literacy, education, and every kid’s right to read what he or she wants. You can read more of her writing on her blog, Fat Girl Reading, or find her on Twitter.

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