Award-winning author Katherine Paterson recommends El Deafo, written and illustrated by Cece Bell (Amulet Books, 2014), as a great read!

When I was a child, I had a fairy godmother. No, really. Her name was Mrs. Lothrop Brown. Back in 1918 when my father was in Walter Reid Hospital with one leg and damaged lungs, she made sure he got the care he needed, so that instead of dying young, he was able to get strong, have a family, and live long enough to see his first great grandchild at 89.

But it was when our family was living in China in the 1930s that she became my fairy godmother. She brought us magic—the magic that comes from books. Mrs. Brown mailed them from New York City, and six or eight weeks later the package would arrive in Hwaian and our mother would read them all to us—Winnie the Pooh (the whole collection), A Child’s Garden of Verses, and The Wind and the Willows, are among the books I remember vividly.

I can’t remember when I began to read on my own, any more than I can tell you when I started speaking in either Chinese or English. Reading has always felt as natural to me as speaking. But then, I was one of those fortunate children with wonderful books and a parent eager to read them aloud to me. Whenever it was that I started reading, I’ve never stopped.

Reading eventually taught me how to write, though writing has always been much harder. Let’s face it. It is hard to write well. I had no fairy godmother in my writing life. Hardly anyone does. The number of people who tell me they hate to write or can’t write makes me sad and frankly worried. Are many of our children growing up unable to think creatively and independently and even fewer able to convey those thoughts clearly online or on paper?

There is little point bemoaning a problem if you’re not willing to search for a solution. When NCBLA Executive Director Mary Brigid Barrett and Assistant Director Geri Eddins presented the idea for Empowering Young Writers to our board, we embraced it. We hoped it would provide elementary and middle school educators with an additional tool to teach writing and promote reading. We’re able to give you the program Mary Brigid and Geri have created for free, thanks not only to their prodigious talent and immense effort, but to the generosity of the many authors, illustrators, and publishers who have donated book excerpts and art that beautifully illustrate the writing and story concepts Empowering Young Readers is seeking to impart.

I had no fairy godmother in my writing life, but as you use this program at home or in a classroom, perhaps you and your children will feel you have one.



Katherine Paterson
Vice President of the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance

Renowned young people’s author Katherine Paterson, along with author/illustrator David Macaulay, author Natalie Babbitt (1932-2016), and author/educator Mary Brigid Barrett, is a founding board member of The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance. Ms. Paterson has served as Vice President of the NCBLA since its inception. She is also the “fairy godmother” of the Empowering Young Writers national initiative. She, and the Paterson Family Foundation, are the sole funders of Empowering Young Writers. The NCBLA has benefited greatly from her many gifts of wisdom, time, and talent—we are grateful!