LeVar Burton will replace Drew Barrymore as host of the National Book Awards ceremony in November. The National Book Foundation dropped Barrymore after she recently resumed production of her self-titled talk show, The Drew Barrymore Show, during the WGA strike.
In a statement to The Los Angeles Times released on Sept. 12, the foundation “rescinded Ms. Barrymore’s invitation.”
“The National Book Awards is an evening dedicated to celebrating the power of literature, and the incomparable contributions of writers to our culture,” the statement read. “Our commitment is to ensure that the focus of the Awards remains on celebrating writers and books, and we are grateful to Ms. Barrymore and her team for their understanding in this situation.”
Though Barrymore eventually postponed her talk show’s fourth season, the foundation proceeded with Burton as the actress’ replacement.
“We are honored to have LeVar Burton — a longtime friend and ally of the National Book Foundation — join us to celebrate the power of stories,” said National Book Foundation director Ruth Dickey in a statement to The LA Times.
“LeVar Burton has introduced multiple generations of young people to the joys of reading, and is a fearless advocate for book access, especially amidst the alarming rise in book banning across the country,” added David Steinberger, who serves as the foundation’s Chair of the Board of Directors, in a statement.
Burton is coming back for a second time after he hosted the event in 2019. The former Reading Rainbow host expressed his excitement for the opportunity.
“I’m a big believer in the power of the written word, and am proud to stand alongside the National Book Foundation to celebrate exceptional storytelling and the foundation’s mission to make books accessible to everyone, everywhere,” Burton said in a statement. “It’s an honor to return as host of the biggest night for books, especially in a moment when the freedom to read is at risk and literature both needs and deserves our recognition and support.”
Burton continues to be celebrated at various events for his contributions to literature. In May, the LA Times Book Club partnered with Arizona State University to host an event on books and censorship; Burton was invited as the guest of honor.
Happening on Nov. 15 in New York City, the 74th National Book Awards Ceremony & Benefit Dinner awards writers in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature and young people’s literature. Oprah Winfrey will attend the invitation-only ceremony as a special guest, and book lovers can live stream it through YouTube, Facebook or the foundation’s site at nationalbook.org/awards.