Atlanta Public Schools is excited to re-launch our district-wide reading campaign, Race2Read 2.0 – A Journey Through Atlanta, One Book at a Time! This year, we’re challenging students, teachers, staff, parents and community to read daily and collectively reach 10 million minutes of reading by the end of the 2019-2020 academic year. Read and log minutes on www.beanstack.com/race2read.
What better way to kick off APS Race2Read 2.0 than with New York Times best-selling author Jason Reynolds? Reynolds stopped by South Atlanta High School on Oct. 10 to share his story and inspire young readers.
“Y’all know what Race2Read is?” asked Reynolds, just two days after the release of his latest book, Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks. “Today is the first day, and y’all can use my book as your first book.”
Twenty-six elementary and middle schools from across the District filled South Atlanta High School’s auditorium as Atlanta-based author Nicki Salcedo led the discussion of his journey from a little black boy who hated reading to a best-selling author of several middle-grade and young-adult books.
“I’m really old,” the 35-year-old author told the crowd. “Back in my day, because we didn’t have cellphones, we had boredom. And because we had boredom, we had imagination.”
Yet, Reynolds’ imagination alone did not spark his interest in writing. He had dreams of becoming the next Michael Jordan, but he says “sometimes life shows you who you are even when you think you’re someone else.”
“The actually books were available, but the stories we needed weren’t,” Reynolds explained. “I didn’t read books because they didn’t relate to me. I thought ‘Why should I have a relationship with something that doesn’t want a relationship with me?”
As a result, Reynolds didn’t read a book from cover-to-cover until he was 17 years old. He found his way to literature through rap music. Queen Latifah’s 1993 “Black Reign” album to be exact.
“As I read the lyrics, I realized that she was writing poetry,” Reynolds said. Though critics at the time didn’t believe rap music would last 5 years yet alone decades, Reynolds acknowledges that hip-hop artists of the 80s and 90s in particular “were geniuses writing the poetry of their time, of their generation.”
Now Reynolds is the author of more than a dozen novels and poetry for young-adult and middle-grade audiences, including All American Boys, the Track series, Long Way Down, For Everyone, and Miles Morales-Spiderman.
APS scholars lined the aisles with budding questions: What inspired you to start reading rap lyrics? What was the purpose of writing as brave as you? How did how you grew up impact you? Did you always want to be an author? Did you base Ghost on your personal life? When you started writing books, did you ever think you would make it this far? Are there any teachers in your life that stood out?
When the question and answer portion concluded, students were met with a big surprise: free, signed copies for every student.
Now, let’s Race2Read …