On January 13, 2020, the Library of Congress and Every Child a Reader announced the appointment of Jason Reynolds as the seventh National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2020-2021. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden offered the following remarks on Reynolds' appointment:
I am thrilled our next National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature is the dynamic, positively electric Jason Reynolds. Jason and his work galvanize readers to believe in themselves, ask critical questions, and create stronger communities.
An inauguration ceremony, presided by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden and attended by both Jason Reynolds and 2018-19 National Ambassador Jacqueline Woodson, took place on Thursday, Jan. 16, at 10:30 a.m. in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress's Thomas Jefferson Building.
Throughout his three terms as National Ambassador, Reynolds, who regularly talks about his journey from reluctant reader to award-winning author, championed “GRAB THE MIC: Tell Your Story,” his signature platform that empowers students to craft and share their own personal stories. Reynolds said:
My mission is to take a different approach: Instead of explicitly encouraging young people to read, my goal is to get them to see the value in their own narratives—that they, too, have a story, and that there's power not just in telling it, but in the opportunity to do so. I’m excited to create spaces around the country for this to happen—spaces where young people can step into their voices and become their own ambassadors.
Almost immediately after his term began, the pandemic forced Reynolds to pivot and he responded quickly, getting his ambassadorship online. Ultimately, Reynolds debuted a digital tour connecting him with thousands of students across the country—from Gillette, Wyoming, to Leland, Mississippi; from Pine Ridge, South Dakota, to New Hope, Minnesota. He also launched “Write. Right. Rite," a 30-part video series that offers fun and engaging prompts to express and build creativity, and a newsletter series. Between 2020-2021, Reynolds served as a key innovator while continuing to delight teens, teachers and families by demonstrating the incredible—often life-changing—value of literature.
On September 20, 2021, Reynolds was appointed to an unprecedented third year as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. During his third year as Ambassador, Reynolds met in person with students in rural communities to continue encouraging young people to create and share their narratives. He also partnered with the digital publisher and education platform Short Edition External to bring their innovative short story devices to select participating schools.
Schools taking part in the Fall 2022 tour each received a Short Story Cube External, a stand-alone device that allows students to create, edit and print stories of their own making. Short Story Cubes are specifically designed for classroom use and offer educators a fun, immersive way to inspire creative thinking and analysis. At the push of a button, the Cubes allow a tactile way for students to share their stories with their peers and communities.
In total, Reynolds visited—virtually or in person—16,000 students at 47 schools and in four different school districts across 25 states.
Carla Hayden offered the following words on Jason's accomplishments during his tenure as National Ambassador:
Jason Reynolds’ tenure as National Ambassador has been nothing short of magic. For three years, Jason toured the country, empowering students to believe in their own stories. I am deeply grateful for his profound and rare ability to connect, always buoying us in creative, empathic ways.
Reynolds summed up his experiences as follows:
My experience as the National Ambassador has been extraordinary. Engaging with young people during one of the most complicated times in our lives, felt like an injection of hope. My only hope was that I could give it right back to the kids, their teachers, their librarians, and their parents, and that I could remind them that our stories, and our willingness to exchange them, could turn the smallest town into the biggest world, and the busiest city into an intimate, dining room table. This has been a labor of love, yes, but also an experiment in connectivity. One that proves, once more, we are truly fastened to one another.
Reynolds concluded his final term as National Ambassador on December 13, 2022, with a celebration involving local students in the Washington, D.C. area External.
The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature raises national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.
The national ambassador is selected for his or her contributions to young people’s literature, an ability to relate to kids and teens and a dedication to fostering children’s literacy in all forms. The selection, made by the Librarian of Congress, is based on recommendations from an independent committee comprising educators, librarians, booksellers and children’s literature experts.