Library of Congress

Md. Native Is Library of Congress' National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

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A Prince George's County, Maryland, man who didn't finish reading his first novel until he was 17 is inspiring millions as an author and poet who is the Library of Congress’ new national ambassador for young people’s literature.

Jason Reynolds said he wasn’t interested in literature growing up in Oxon Hill.

“There were no writers coming to our school,” he said. “I wasn’t a big reader. How was I supposed to know that I could do this?”

Thirteen published books later Reynolds is trying to get kids excited about reading by putting down the books, grabbing a mic and telling their own stories.

“What it does is it validates their experiences and from that experience comes the story,” he said.

When Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden heard his plan she knew Reynolds had what he calls the magic sauce.

“When you get them thinking about stories and that they have stories to tell, they’ll want to read other people’s stories, too,” she said.

Reynolds took questions at the Library of Congress Thursday and also spent time talking to students about their passions.

He plans to do the same thing in small, rural towns as he travels the country as the ambassador.

It left students like  chinyere  okwonkwl fired up.

As an aspiring poet, Bishop McNamara High School student Chinyere Okonkwl said she sees a lot of herself in Reynolds.

“If the world wants to hear his voice, then maybe the world wants to hear mine as well,” she said.

The stories students tell him as ambassador will be recorded and added to the Library of Congress archive, just like his was.

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