Jason Reynolds addresses his young audience at the Library of Congress. Photo: Shawn Miller / Library of Congress
After a record three years as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, the Library of Congress and Every Child a Reader celebrated author Jason Reynolds at an event appropriately populated with young readers.
“He’s a rock star in the children’s literature world,” Shari Werb, Library of Congress director of Learning, Literacy and Engagement, said during her introduction of the author.
Reynolds has written more than a dozen books, including the Newbury Award-winning “Long Way Down,” and is a faculty member in Lesley’s MFA in Creative Writing program. He became the seventh ambassador for young people’s literature in 2020.
Despite limited travel during the pandemic, Reynolds set out to speak at as many schools as possible, with a particular focus on small towns.
“There’s no Library of Congress in the middle of Iowa,” he said during the celebration at the Library of Congress on Tuesday, noting that rural readers deserve the same access to resources as larger cities.
Reynolds did rack up the miles during his ambassadorship, visiting 25 states, 47 schools and 16,000 students. He also established GRAB THE MIC: Tell Your Story and Write. Right. Rite, video resources with a view to empowering young people.
In that vein, the Library of Congress event included an interview between the author and two students. Reynolds fielded questions about writer's block and pulled back the curtain on his own process.
“I just write terribly,” he said of his first drafts. “I am one hundred percent certain that whatever I’m going to put on the page is trash. Every single time.”
But, Reynolds said, he knows he will transform and improve his stories in subsequent drafts. He also told his audience to start writing early and often.
“If you love writing then lean into it and lean into it with everything you have,” he said.
While his ambassadorship is ending, Reynolds said he plans to continue the work he’s done over the past three years — creating a space for young people to share their stories.
In closing he said, “I hope that you’re proud of me.”