Jason Reynolds, an award-winning author of more than a dozen best-selling books for young adults and middle-grade audiences, will be speaking virtually at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8, as part of the Augusta University Writing Project Author Series.
Born in Washington, D.C., Reynolds found inspiration in rap music and began writing poetry at 9 years old. Reynolds published his own first novel, When I Was The Greatest, in 2014 and later won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent for his work.
Reynolds’ many books include Long Way Down; the Track series with Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu; Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks; All American Boys; Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You; and Miles Morales: Spider Man. He is also the recipient of a Newbery Honor, a Printz Honor and an NAACP Image Award. Ghost was also a National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature. His latest book is called Stuntboy, in the Meantime.
He often tells his audiences that the first time he read a novel cover to cover was at the age of 17.
“Here’s what I know: I know there are a lot — a lot — of young people who hate reading,” Reynolds writes on his website. “I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys don’t actually hate books; they hate boredom.”
Speaking directly to the “book-hating boys” in the world, Reynolds writes, “Know that I feel you. I really do. Because even though I’m a writer, I hate reading boring books, too.”
Dr. Rebecca Harper, associate professor of language and literacy and director of the Augusta University Writing Project in the College of Education, said she was ecstatic when Reynolds agreed to virtually participate in the author series.
“Jason Reynolds is one of my very favorite authors,” Harper said, adding she had the pleasure of meeting him several years ago at the International Literacy Association Conference. “His books are so powerful because I think they speak to a number of voices that are underrepresented in literature. And he is able to connect with people who may not consider themselves readers.”
Harper said she particularly enjoys his book, Long Way Down, because it is written entirely in poems.
“I’ve even had adults tell me, ‘I’m not a reader, but I couldn’t put that book down,’” Harper said. “I think he has a way of bringing the world to the page.”
Reynolds simply has a way of relating to non-readers, Harper said.
“He recently did an interview on PBS where he talked about how when we have students who are afraid to read or don’t like to read, we hit them with multiple words and multiple pages. And he said something like, ‘You know, if I had someone who was afraid of dogs, I wouldn’t take them to go see a pack of pit bulls. Instead, I might take them to a puppy daycare,’” Harper said. “He said, ‘Poetry is kind of like that for students who might be afraid of the words. Poetry is a good gateway to get reluctant readers engaged.’”
When Harper started the author series in 2020, she said one of her top goals was to get Reynolds to participate.
“I started the author series on a whim, just as a way to connect people during the pandemic. It’s been kind of an accidental success, if you will,” Harper said. “The author series started taking off and, in my mind, I knew that we had definitely made it and it was successful when we got Jason Reynolds to participate. That was my goal pretty early on.”
Harper hopes the public will participate in the free, virtual event to hear Reynolds discuss his books and the art of storytelling.
“We are thrilled to have Jason Reynolds kicking off our spring series and we have several more authors participating later in the spring,” Harper said, adding she hopes to keep the author series continuing for many years to come. “Until people stop saying, ‘Yes, I’ll come and talk about my work,’ we’ll keep doing it.”
The public must register to participate in the Augusta University Writing Project Author Series featuring Jason Reynolds. The event is at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8.