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Jason Reynolds: The Beauty of Words Is Magic

Gene sits down with award-winning YA author Jason Reynolds. They talk about the unusual story structure in All American Boys, the inspiration for the book, and how writing it emerged from a deep friendship (full of “uncomfortable, healthy conversations”) with his co-author, Brendan Kiely. With his book Ghost, Reynolds wanted to explore the whole concept of “running” — and what it means to run toward, or run away, from something.

Books Beyond February

February is ending but that doesn’t mean the celebration of African American history should. After all, good books are good year round.

Plus, there’s evidence that sharing stories with children builds empathy. (Though the study’s focus was on fiction, I think that well-presented nonfiction for young children is equally powerful.)

Two National Ambassadors for Young People's Literature, Sitting and Chatting

American-born Chinese Gene Yang sits down with Chinese-born American Katherine Paterson to talk about the books that most influenced them as readers and writers. Paterson — the child of Christian missionaries — spent her early years in Huai'an and Shanghai. Her first language was Chinese, but the books that she remembers most vividly from her childhood were the works of British writers such as A.A. Milne and Robert Louis Stevenson.

That time of year again: honoring books

The 2017 Youth Media Awards were announced recently during the midwinter conference of the American Library Association.

The books chosen for the Caldecott Medal (awarded to the most distinguished American picture book) and others (including the Newbery, Printz, and Coretta Scott King Awards) are selected from books published during the preceding year.

Our Diverse World, Through Books

We may never travel far from our own town or city; go to school with people of different backgrounds, have different families, live near a mosque or synagogue, or even eat at a restaurant that serves food from another part of the world.  

Meet the Middle-Aged Asian Guy Book Club!

Gene and his good friend and creative collaborator, Thien Pham (Level Up), just started a book club, inspired by their newfound love of YA romance novels. In their first book club get-together, they talk about Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, a love story of two young people from different worlds. Are Eleanor and Park are too young for "true love"? Would their relationship  be different today (the book is set in the 80's)? What are the three words Eleanor writes on the postcard to Park at the very end of the book?

Reading Without Walls

Reading initiatives frequently get kids to read and that’s indisputably good. But Gene Luen Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, a graphic novelist (aka cartoonist), former teacher, and father, is encouraging readers to think and read outside the box.

Yang’s ambassadorial motto is “Reading Without Walls.” And he’s encouraging kids in classrooms everywhere across the United States (and maybe the world) to do just that with a reading program. 

Meet Monica Brown!

Monica Brown’s life is full of words. She not only writes for and teaches adults, she introduces children to memorable characters in fact and fiction. I met Monica first through stories about Marisol, Lola, and Celia Cruz but one day met the woman behind the words. I stopped at a booth during a conference and met the writer who brought these characters to life for me. Happily, she agreed to answer my seemingly endless questions to share with a broader audience.

Monica Brown

'We Need Diverse Books' Values Authors Who Know Diversity Personally, Including Disabilities

A call for submissions for the 2016 Walter Grant is out for new U.S. authors and/or illustrators who are diverse themselves and not yet published. The grant program is inclusive of writers who identify themselves as having a disability as well as other categories of diversity including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion that are listed in the grant application guidelines.

Same but different

A Washington Post columnist recently lamented the impact of the current polarized political climate in the United States. She said it was “contaminating” our children; that its impact was visible in various interactions.

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"I used to walk to school with my nose buried in a book." — Coolio