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In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Banned Books Week: The Virtue of Comics

On 22, Sep 2014 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

I just read a post about banned comics over on The Hub and was inspired to write my own little post about how comics really helped me. I know as librarians we are all about letting kids read, but I don’t think you can emphasize enough how important it is to let them read what they are drawn to.

I’ve talked about it before, but when I was younger I struggled with reading. There were books I would get into and I would read through them quickly, but that didn’t happen all that often. I didn’t have a special librarian I connected with and I didn’t really use books as escapism. Then in late elementary school I had a really good friend that got me into the Archie comics. Sure they weren’t any great piece of literature, but I would be lost for the evening reading through the new issue I picked up at the grocery store check out. I can’t say that comics got me into reading. I did already read and there were other books that I enjoyed. I also didn’t run out and start checking out stacks of books from the library. It took many more years for that habit to develop. I think that what comics did for me, really, was to keep me engaged with reading. They kept me looking for more material and encouraged me every time I picked one up. I only wish that there had been the profusion of comics and graphic novels that there is today. I think then I would have become a voracious reader.

I was so struck by a comment from Amy Koester at the ALSC Institute last week where she said she doesn’t really like the term “reluctant reader” because she feels that they are simply readers that haven’t found their niche yet. I wanted to get up and shout when she said that. I cannot agree more! Especially because I am one of those readers. Comics helped keep me reading through a time when I thought I didn’t really like reading, through a time I struggled with reading, through a time when assigned reading was way above my head and could have turned me off to it completely.

I’m really grateful that despite their eye rolling my parents did buy me those Archie comics and kept buying them. I went on from there to read the TinTin comics which are both beloved by many and really problematic (I have another post coming up about that topic). I read those a million times each and they kept me reading too, through middle school when I thought I wasn’t a reader. So, keep graphic novels in library collections. Put them in the hands of readers. They are real reading and maybe they will keep another kid reading.

For more about Banned Books Week see the website here. The official week runs from September 21-27, but I think we can always celebrate reading banned books.

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