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Jason Reynolds: On the (Virtual) School Tour

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The following is a guest post by Guy Lamolinara, communications officer in Literary Initiatives. 

Jason Reynolds. Photo: Adedeyo Kosokoto.

Kids in 11 schools across the country will soon get a special treat: A visit from Jason Reynolds, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

This being no ordinary time, Jason will visit virtually, but his presence will be no less deeply felt. Jason has a rare gift for connecting with young people and getting them excited about books and reading. This special two-week tour will reach middle and high school students in underserved communities and will complement Jason’s current digital offerings, a prompt-based video series titled “Write. Right. Rite.” and a monthly newsletter, all available on Jason’s Library of Congress Resource Guide.

Jason’s National Ambassador platform is called “GRAB THE MIC: Tell Your Story.” He launched this platform because he wants students to embrace and share their stories. Ultimately, Jason sees sharing as a type of empowerment that helps kids become their own ambassadors.

During the first half of December, Jason will meet students from:

  • W. Eater Junior High School, Rantoul, Illinois
  • Leland Middle School and Leland High School, Leland, Mississippi
  • Live Oak Middle School, Denham Springs, Louisiana
  • Red Cloud Schools, Pine Ridge, South Dakota
  • Sage Valley Junior High School and Twin Spruce Junior High School, Gillette, Wyoming
  • Stratton Elementary School and Park Middle School, Beckley, West Virginia
  • Swansea High Freshman Academy and Swansea High School, Swansea, South Carolina

In each virtual event, Jason will discuss his role and will talk to two “student ambassadors”—each student will ask questions of Jason, and will be asked questions by Jason in return. All participating students will receive a free copy of Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks and schools across the country may download an educator guide, both courtesy of Simon & Schuster. Each winning school was selected from almost 200 proposals submitted earlier this year.

Jason Reynolds’s goal for his ambassadorship is to visit communities that do not often have the opportunity to host authors for meaningful discussions with young people. Although he must now connect with schools virtually, his goal remains unchanged: “Though we’re living in unprecedented times, times that cause us to pivot and rethink our plans, I’m still just as excited to engage with our young people around stories,” says Reynolds. “If anything, what we’ve learned over the last eight months is that we need each other, and my desire is for that need to be partially satiated with the exchanging of our narratives, even if through a screen. I feel encouraged and am looking forward to ‘hitting the road.’”

Proposals for the 2021 GRAB THE MIC tour with Jason Reynolds—currently planned for Spring 2021—are now being accepted via Library of Congress partner, Every Child a Reader.