Next National Ambassador For Young People's Literature Is Named

Jan 14, 2020
Originally published on January 14, 2020 10:41 am
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NOEL KING, HOST:

The Library of Congress has appointed a new national ambassador for young people's literature - the author Jason Reynolds. For the next two years, he gets to travel around the country visiting libraries and talking to kids. But instead of just encouraging them to read more, he'll also be helping them tell their own stories. Here's NPR Books editor Petra Mayer.

PETRA MAYER, BYLINE: Jason Reynolds has a message for kids. Stories are the greatest gift humanity has to offer itself, and your voice matters just because you're you. His project as ambassador is called Grab the Mic: Tell Your Story. And he's going to partner with the nonprofit organization StoryCorps to create a recorded archive of what he hears from kids.

JASON REYNOLDS: Imagine if we were just to make space for young people to express their stories as they stand today - at 11 years old and 12 years old and 15 years old. What we do intrinsically and implicitly, it validates their humanity at a young age by saying that who you are matters, what you've been through matters, how you feel matters.

MAYER: Reynolds says his mother did that for him when he was young.

REYNOLDS: My mother let me know that my voice is a necessary voice because it is mine. And that's it. That was the only thing that qualified - is that it belonged to me and therefore it belonged in the world.

MAYER: Jason Reynolds has won multiple awards for his work, but he says he wants kids to know that he is not exceptional.

REYNOLDS: I am them. They are me. And what I've done with my life, they have all sorts of opportunities to make that happen for themselves if we, as adults, do our part.

MAYER: And Reynolds plans to tell kids that whether they live in Mississippi or Manhattan, their stories are valuable.

REYNOLDS: That you are a piece of that puzzle, a thread in that fabric and that it takes you and everyone else to make this thing work. And when I say this thing, I mean the future.

MAYER: Petra Mayer, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.