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Award-winning author Jason Reynolds has been dedicated to empowering youth through literature and the Washington, D.C.-born writer will take his efforts to the next level. According to the Washington Post, Reynolds has been selected as the seventh National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress.

The New York Times best-selling author—who is a University of Maryland alum—pens novels and poetry for young adult and middle-grade audiences. He released his first novel dubbed When I Was the Greatest in 2014 and has since evolved into one of this generation’s most influential writers. The 36-year-old has authored 13 books and garnered several accolades for his work including a Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent, an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teen, and a Schneider Family Book Award. The author’s literary experiences inspired him to use his work to motivate youth to read. He said the first time he read a book from cover to cover was at the age of 17.

The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature is a bi-annual honor awarded to a prominent author or illustrator. In the role, which is co-sponsored by the Library of Congress, Every Child a Reader, and the Children’s Book Council, the individual who is appointed travels around the country to promote the importance of literacy. “Jason and his work galvanize readers to believe in themselves, ask critical questions, and create stronger communities,” read a statement from the Library of Congress. Reynolds says he plans on interacting with kids and teens from small towns during his two-year appointment.

“Imagine if we were just to make space for young people to express their stories as they stand today at 11 years old and 12 years old and 15 years old,” he told NPR. “What we do intrinsically and implicitly, it validates their humanity at a young age by saying that who you are matters, what you’ve been through matters, how you feel matters.”

Reynolds’ presence in the literary world is important for representation as there remains a major racial disparity in youth literacy.

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