For librarians and teachers, comic books and graphic novels are no longer the dangerous fare that corrupted children’s minds and led to juvenile delinquency as a misguided psychologist, a Senate subcommittee, and the Comics Code would have had have us believe in the 1950s. Libraries and schools are now embracing the medium and finding ways to incorporate comics into coursework, events, and more. As the School Library Journal points out in a recent guest essay, comics creators are right behind them, offering their time and energy to demonstrate the value of their work and to make these events successful.
“Since 2008, when we published Skim, our first book together, Jillian and I have done a combination of more than 50 classroom visits (working together and solo),” notes Mariko Tamaki, who co-created the Caldecott Honor and Printz Honor winning graphic novel This One Summer with her cousin Jillian Tamaki. “Actually, it’s probably more. Maybe 100.” That’s a lot of events. Rather than simply setting up an easel and talking at a group of children and teens about their book, the cousins describe situations where they get the audience talking by asking them the questions that spark a conversation:
It is not essential that the kids in question have read a visiting writer’s books, although that is definitely a bonus. This connection could be something as simple as, “Hey, we’re talking about The Great Gatsby in class, our guest(s) also write about the divide between different social classes in America. Maybe we could talk to them about how their experience or understanding of class in society inspired their work?”
It could also be something like, “Hey, we’re reading Romeo and Juliet, these two women wrote a book where a kid talks about hating Romeo and Juliet. What’s up with that?”
Basically, anything is more helpful than the obvious, “Hey kids! You read books, these people make books. Let’s give them a hand.”
The Tamaki cousins describe a situation in which their book may be a central part of the conversation, but it is used as a pivot to talk about other topics. “An author or artist might be visiting to promote a book, but ideally the value of what they bring to your classroom or library is beyond just extensive knowledge of that one book.”
New York Times bestselling author of the Olympians series, George O’Connor mirrors these sentiments in a comic describing his adventures into library events. Like Jillian and Mariko, he outlines the dos and don’ts of a successful event, but at the end of the day he reminds us that we do these events “because they’re fun… And exciting. And inspirational. For the kids, and the author, for everyone involved really!”
Read George O’Connor’s full comic below and the rest of Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s essay here.
- Working With Libraries! A Handbook For Comics Creators
- Comic Book Club Handbook
- Graphic Novels: Suggestions for Librarians
- Adding Graphic Novels to Your Library or Classroom Collection
- Raising a Reader! How Comics & Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love To Read!
- Using Graphic Novels in Education
- CBLDF Discussion Guides