Author Jason Reynolds was revealed as the Library of Congress' newest national ambassador for young people's literature on "CBS This Morning" Monday. The two-year position aims to raise the nation's appreciation of youth literature, as it relates to literacy, education and the development and betterment of lives.
As the ambassador, Reynolds said he plans to focus on children in rural areas and small towns across the country.
"I can't claim to love children if I only love some of them," he said on "CBS This Morning." "Sometimes we overlook the kids in Iowa, the kids in Nebraska, small town Alabama and upstate New York."
Reynolds, who didn't read a whole book until he was 17 years old, said if he had had interaction with authors when he was younger, he may have been more motivated to read.
"If anybody would have come to see me and let me know that they are the ones behind these words and I could buy into them, then I could buy into the work," he said.
That is part of the reason Reynolds was selected as the ambassador, said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, who joined Reynolds on "CBS This Morning."
"What better ambassador? Someone who didn't have the books that he needed to get him excited about reading," she said.
Hayden added that Reynolds is "a rock star" in young adult literature. "Young people of all ages and types and sizes and colors stand in line for two hours to interact with him," she said.
To encourage children to read more Hayden said adults have to provide the books kids want to read and "not be judgmental."
"Sometimes we want young people to read the great novels and things and not a graphic novel," but adults shouldn't discourage that those types of books because reading is "like a muscle," she said.
She added that "books should be windows on the world, but they should be mirrors," explaining that when she was growing up in Queens, there was only one book at her local library that had a character that looked like her.
Reynolds said the book that finally hooked him was Richard Wright's "Black Boy."
"What lit me up about it was that it wasn't a 50-page exposition. Page two, you're in the midst of the drama," he said. "I think it's interesting that we expect young people to want to read 50 pages of exposition when they live in two-minute worlds where things are happening rapidly. So my job as a writer is to write something that has a hook in the beginning."
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