On Thurs. morning, Jason Reynolds was sworn in as the Library of Congress’ newest National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. This two-year positon aims to raise the nation’s appreciation of youth literature, as it relates to literacy, education and the development and betterment of lives.

Reynolds, author of 15 young adult novels, has an inspiring story for advocating youth literacy; in fact, he didn’t read a whole book until he was 17 years old. Somehow, that one book sparked a burning passion in him, and now he plans to open the eyes of as many young adults and middle-aged kids as he can.

Reynolds plans to focus on empowering young people in small-town America with a platform he is calling “Grab the Mic: Tell Your Story.”

“When we ask about how to perpetuate reading, our knee-jerk reaction is to just insist that young people should read, and I know for a fact that is not working,” Reynolds said. “I travel all over the place and there are lots of well-meaning people who are trying to help kids who don’t want to read; who live in households where reading is not valued, kids in prison, and definitely the wrong thing to do is to tell them to read. Youths don’t work that way. You tell them to read they’ll do anything but read.”

Instead he champions making a personal connection with potential readers.

“I’m going to rural America, and we’re going to pick one or two kids, maybe one of the knuckleheads, or the one with the discipline problems, and have them interview me. Ask whatever they want to ask in front of a live audience.”

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