Jason Reynolds named ‘Young People’s Literature’ ambassador

Jason Reynolds attends the 70th National Book Awards ceremony and benefit dinner at Cipriani Wall Street on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — Award-winning children’s author Jason Reynolds has taken on a new project: He has been named the country’s next National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, a two-year position.

The Library of Congress, the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader jointly announced Monday that Reynolds will succeed Jacqueline Woodson, who served in 2018-2019.

In a statement Monday, Reynolds said he would focus on visiting small towns.

“My mission is to take a different approach: Instead of explicitly encouraging young people to read, my goal is to get them to see the value in their own narratives — that they, too, have a story, and that there’s power not just in telling it, but in the opportunity to do so,” said Reynolds, a D.C.-area native. “I’m excited to create spaces around the country for this to happen — spaces where young people can step into their voices and become their own ambassadors.”

Reynolds is known for such popular works as the “Track” series, the novel in verse “A Long Way Down” and the neighborhood panorama “Look Both Ways,” a finalist last fall for the National Book Award.

He and Ibram X. Kendi have collaborated on a young people’s edition of Kendi’s “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You,” scheduled to come out in March. “Stamped” won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2016.

As ambassador, Reynolds plans to team up with the nonprofit StoryCorps to record students and create an archive of their stories. The 36-year-old Reynolds himself has spoken of his journey from reluctant reader to literary success and, in his early 20s, worked for StoryCorps.

“I am thrilled our next National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature is the dynamic, positively electric Jason Reynolds,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a statement. “Jason and his work galvanize readers to believe in themselves, ask critical questions and create stronger communities.”

Besides Woodson, previous youth ambassadors include Walter Dean Myers, Katherine Paterson and Gene Luen Yang.

Reynolds’ inauguration is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Thursday; the event is free and open to the public. A livestream of the event will be available, according to the Library of Congress.

Watch his interview on CBS This Morning.

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