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On the Road with Jason Reynolds

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This is a guest post by Monica Valentine, Programs Specialist in the Library’s Center for Learning, Literacy and Engagement. 

In January 2020, middle grade and Young Adult author Jason Reynolds was announced as the 2020-2021 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Last month, he joined Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden for a look back at the first year of his unique ambassadorship. To support his Grab the Mic: Tell Your Story platform Reynolds intended to travel and inspire students in rural and remote areas. The global pandemic made in-person experiences impossible, yet Reynolds has still been able to encourage students nationwide to take ownership of and share their own stories through seven virtual appearances and in eleven school districts.

You can view the full conversation between Jason Reynolds and Dr. Hayden below, and find timestamps for major topics and ideas for unlocking your own stories as well.

Timestamps for Major Topics

  • Reynolds launched the video series Write. Right. Rite. in April of 2020. He explains that these short video prompts were designed to encourage young people to “use language and literacy as a spring board to using their imagination… shake it loose, shake it free.” (5:16)
  • Asked by Hayden why he focused on small towns, Reynolds responds “because children are everywhere” adding that “children in small towns deserve to experience meeting authors and have them listen to their dreams.” (7:24) Interviewed by two students at each appearance Reynolds made genuine connections with them by encouraging them to “unlock their own stories” even if those stories may be difficult.
  • Discussing Reynolds’s ability to connect with his young audience Hayden describes a moving conversation she observed with a student. The student names The Boy In The Black Suit as her favorite work of Reynolds. Hear them discuss how respect and truth telling from adults help young people “unlock their potential.” (9:40)
  • Reynolds responds to two of the questions for him that the Library of Congress received from other parts of the country. Hear his thoughtful answers to Nicole and Aisha on how he thinks he is making history, and a piece of advice he received that has stuck with him. (18:40)

Unlock Your Own Stories

  • Try the prompts in the Write. Right. Rite. video series and shake your imagination free. Explore the Jason Reynolds, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Research Guide. You’ll find the series and other Grab The Mic resources here.
  • Give some thought to how your interests, your family, or the environment you live in make you unique? Have you had experiences that could help someone else feel seen or heard? Write them down and consider sharing them.
  • Is there a book you’ve read that mirrored some of your own life experiences? Did it help you to realize others may share those experiences? Recommend it to someone and if they read it then discuss.
  • Ask a trusted adult to share the most valuable piece of advice they received growing up. What was it? Who shared it with them?

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