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Story Me!

Author Meg Medina loves a good story—and she wants kids to share their favorites. 

Headshot of Meg Medina standing outdoors.
Courtesy of Meg Medina

Meg Medina is the Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

Cuéntame! Translated from Spanish, it means “story me.” Author Meg Medina says it’s important to share stories, whether from books or from real life.

“‘Cuéntame’ is a phrase we use when you’re sitting down with a friend you haven’t seen in a while,” Medina says. “And you say ‘Bueno, cuéntame, so tell me what’s happening.’ … I love that idea because that is what I’m asking: ‘Story me up.’ Tell me the books that you love, [and] I’m going to tell you some of the books that I love.”

Medina is doing a lot of that these days. As the 2023–2024 Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, it’s her job to highlight the importance of children’s books. She calls her approach to the job “Cuéntame! Let’s Talk Books.” And she regularly visits schools and encourages kids to read and share stories with each other.

Growing up in a storytelling family is what led Medina to become an author.

“I came to writing through stories in my family,” she said. “I had very talkative Cuban aunts and grandmothers and mother, and they did a lot of talking and storytelling in the house. And that just developed my ear for story.”

Two women wearing headset microphones are seated on either side of a displayed book called Merci Suarez Changes Gears. One of the women is speaking.
Shawn Miller/Library of Congress

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden (left) interviewed Meg Medina at the start of Medina’s term as ambassador in January 2023.

Today, she writes books for all ages. Her 2018 book, Merci Suárez Changes Gears, about a girl facing all the changes that come with starting middle school, won the Newbery Medal—one of the highest honors in children’s literature. But everyone has stories to tell—not just writers. And when Medina talks to kids, she wants to hear theirs.

“[I want kids to know] I’m listening, I’m listening. I’m listening to what their passions are, to what interests them, and I’m really interested in being in conversation with them,” she said. “I’m part of their reading family. That feels really exciting.”

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Did You Know

© Macrovector, Bro Vector/stock.adobe.com; Illustration composite Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

March 2 is Read Across America Day. Whether it’s adventure, mystery, fantasy, comics, or nonfiction subjects like animals, books offer something for everyone! Libraries offer tons of ways to dig into reading, including through story hours and audio books (books you listen to).

Your teacher or librarian can help you find just the right book!

Pura Belpré’s Story

A young Pura Belpré speaks to a group of children.
The New York Public Library Digital Collections

Pura Belpré (standing) during story time at the New York Public Library, where she worked as a librarian.

Librarians can put a spotlight on great stories. No one knew that better than Pura Belpré.

Born in Puerto Rico in 1899, Belpré moved to New York City and became a children’s librarian in the 1920s. The public library where she worked was in Harlem, a neighborhood of New York. Many of the kids who visited Belpré’s library were Black or Puerto Rican. Belpré wanted to introduce them to the folk tales she’d heard growing up. But these were not among the folk tales on the library shelves.

With no printed books containing the stories she wanted to tell, Belpré began reciting the tales to children in both English and Spanish, often using puppets. Meanwhile, she started adding new books to the library’s collection. These books had Latino authors and include Black and Latino characters. Some of them were written in Spanish, the language many of the neighborhood kids spoke at home.

Hoping to preserve the Puerto Rican tales from her childhood, Belpré wrote them down and had them published. She’s best known for Perez y Martina, which is about a mouse and a cockroach who fall in love.

Today, Pura Belpré’s efforts to highlight diverse storytelling are honored with the Pura Belpré Award. It’s given each year to a Latino or Latina children’s author whose work celebrates the cultures of Latin America. 

Women’s History Month

An animated GIF shows portraits of prominent women from different fields and eras.

Addison N. Scurlock—Michael Ochs Archives, Stephen Shugerman, Andrew Burton, Clive Brunskill, Sasha—Hulton Archive, Hulton Archive/Getty Images; Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-DIG-ds-05052, LC-U9-25383-33, LC-DIG-ppmsca-23661); Courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum; PRNewsFoto/XM Satellite Radio/AP Images; Sojourner Truth . . . From Her “Book of Life”; NASA;  Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.; National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution (NPG.2009.36); © Tupungato/Dreamstime.com; Steve Petteway/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

March is Women’s History Month in the United States. The March 5 “In the News!” page will focus on women’s history. In the meantime, check out some related articles at Britannica!

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Word of the Day

platform

Part of speech:

noun

Definition:

: something that allows someone to tell a large number of people about an idea, product, etc.

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