Author Jason Reynolds was recently named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress. He spoke with TFK Kid Reporter Jack Doane.
1. What’s your goal as National Ambassador?
My goal is to visit small towns and encourage young people to share their stories. Stories aren’t just in books. Our lives are books in themselves. All of our stories are valuable.
2. You visit schools often. Why is that important to you?
My job is to show kids that the person who wrote these books is a regular person, a person with fears and desires and joy, just like them.
3. What’s it like to write a novel?
The truth is, it’s difficult. You can’t really master it. You just do the best you can, and make it as clear as possible. You try to make something beautiful with the words you know.
4. You write especially for young people? Why?
Who else is there to write for? I want to write about how interesting and resilient young people are.
5. What makes fiction so powerful for young people?
Fiction takes you into the lives of others. They might be suffering or being treated unfairly. And you learn to care about those people. That’s an amazing thing.
6. The boys in your novels show their emotions. Why is that?
I grew up in a neighborhood where boys couldn’t seem scared or sensitive. But boys can be all these things. I want to show them that it’s okay to have a range of emotions.
7. Why is diversity important in books?
America is a diverse country. It’s got people from all over the world, living all kinds of lives. That’s the beauty of our country. Why not have that beauty shown in our literature?
8. You publish books frequently. How do you do it?
I work six or seven hours every day. My mom worked for 50 years and never got an opportunity like this. So I never take it for granted.
PRIZED AUTHOR Reynolds wears his medal from the January 2020 Library of Congress ceremony.
SHAWN MILLER—LIBRARY OF CONGRESS