Gene Yang Encourages “Reading Without Walls” in New Short Comic

This weekend, Gene Luen Yang’s “Reading Without Walls” initiative will officially launch in its new permanent incarnation. Originally conceived as Yang’s platform during his term as the Library of Congress’ National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, the program encourages readers to choose books that touch on experiences different from their own.

To illustrate the value of empathy — or rather his own shame recalling a time when he lacked empathy for a classmate — Yang created an original four-page comic for School Library Journal titled “Comfort Zone.” The first page is below, and you can read the rest here at SLJ.


The idea behind “Reading Without Walls” is simple but powerful: challenge young readers to choose books about characters who don’t look or live like them; addressing topics they don’t know much about; or in a format they don’t usually read–such as a graphic novel, a book in verse, or an audiobook. The expanded initiative will launch on Saturday, April 1, but the “Reading Without Walls” website already offers a free downloadable program kit including a certificate of participation, poster, writing prompts and puzzles, and a parents’ guide. Check the events schedule to see if Yang will be making an appearance near you! Interested individuals can also sign up for email updates about the program.

Librarians and educators looking to incorporate “Reading Without Walls” into their collections or curricula can also find a wealth of free resources from CBLDF, including our graphic novel discussion guides, Using Graphic Novels in Education, and the 2016 Banned Books Week Handbook, which centers on the theme of diversity.

“Reading Without Walls” is sponsored by the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, Every Child a Reader, the Children’s Book Council, and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. Watch Yang’s introductory video below, and get ready to expand some horizons!

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Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.