What inspires someone to become a writer? For Jacqueline Woodson, it was butterflies. At age 7, she wrote poems about them. “I stapled together a book,” she told TIME for Kids. “I carried it around in my pocket until my grandma washed my pants.”
Woodson always keeps a notebook nearby. She says just sitting down to write can lead to new ideas.
COURTESY JACQULINE WOODSON
Since then, Woodson has written more than 30 books. They include picture books, novels, and memoirs. Today, Woodson is a famous writer. Many of her books have won awards.
As a child, picture books were Woodson’s favorite. She enjoyed reading them well into the sixth grade. Teachers thought she struggled with reading. “I was really slow,” Woodson says. “I would read picture books over and over.”
But slow reading made her listen. She listened for the poetry in language. She paid attention to the way stories were put together. She was learning to read like a writer.
Woodson holds her picture book The Day You Begin.
COURTESY JACQUELINE WOODSON
Woodson spends much of her time writing. She keeps a notebook handy to jot down story ideas.
Her picture book The Day You Begin was inspired by her great-great-grandfather. He was the only black student in his classroom in Ohio. “The book is about the many ways we walk into rooms and feel like we don’t belong there,” Woodson says.
Woodson tours the country and inspires young writers. Here, she talks with students in Chicago, Illinois.
DIA DIPASUPIL—GETTY IMAGES
Woodson hopes the book will help readers find the courage to share their experiences with others. “A good story gives the reader so much more than a story,” she says. “It makes you think. It changes you.”
Woodson is the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. The Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden (right), granted her the honor at an event in Washington, D.C. It took place on January 9, 2018.
Woodson will serve as ambassador through 2019. Her job is to visit schools and libraries. She talks with kids about the value of reading.