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Jason Reynolds: ‘National Ambassador’ for Young People’s Literature

Growing up in the 90s, I experienced an education system that was big on reading.

We had an actual library class, we had to learn the Dewey Decimal System and how to find books using the card catalog. However, between reading school selected books such as Lord of the Flies (which I never finished) because I wasn’t British, and I never thought I’d be stranded on an island.

I found that the stories that we read were not relatable and just weren’t connecting to my life experience. Even when I was able to get by reading installments of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Judy Blume’s Tale of A Fourth Grade Nothing. Quite frankly, as a creative I probably would have really struggled if it wasn’t for 1990s Nickelodeon shows such as All That and Kenan & Kel, which represented who I was and what I was experiencing at that age.

Thankfully today, young people don’t have to feel the way that I felt thanks to authors like Jason Reynolds, who have found a way to represent and tell stories for kids that look like me. I accidentally discovered, Reynold’s work when I was seeing his book Ghost on several Instagram pages of young teachers that I was following on Instagram. I immediately order my copy.

I was immediately captured by the story of Ghost. I knew Ghost, I knew other Ghosts and I knew the other characters in the book. I was the characters in the book. Jason Reynolds’ writing style has a way of using traumatic events as an opportunity for the reader to feel empathy while also seeing the promise in the characters of the stories. Something that I think is important for today’s youth. As we study the effects of adverse childhood experiences it is important that these real stories be told.

Jason Reynolds who has shared that he did not read his first full novel until he was 17 1/2 years old has become the author he needed when was growing up. The author that I needed and the author that the world needs.

For more information on Jason Reynolds check out his official website.

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