February 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Comics in Schools and Libraries | New York Comic Con 2014


Attendees enjoying “cosplay.” All media courtesy of Rocco Staino

Librarians and educators were well represented among the 150,000 enthusiasts at last week’s (October 9-12) Comic Con in New York City with many who joined in “cosplay” (costume play) by dressing as their favorite character from comics, games, and films. Many took time from the packed exhibit floor to attend panel discussions that focused on comics in schools and libraries.

David Mishkin and Jerzy Drozd, two of the founders of Kids Read Comics! (KRC), a free comic event that unites people from the comics and animation fields that took place in Michigan this past summer, joined with Reading with Pictures (RWP) board member Josh Elder to explain how librarians can host their own comic convention at their libraries. RWP is a nonprofit organization that advocates the use of comics in the classroom. The three discussed the success of a KRC conference on comics that was held this past June at the Ann Arbor District Library in Michigan and their work in developing a planning kit for those interested in planning comics-related conferences/programs. (For more information, contact Mishkin and Drozd via email.)

In a session entitled “Comics to Expand Your Brain, John Weaver, a high school English teacher at Williamsport Area High School in Williamsport, PA, explained that graphic novels are acknowledged in the English Language Arts (ELA) Standard 10 of the Common Core. The panel’s discussion conjured titles such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus (Pantheon, 1986), Alan Moore’s Watchmen (DC, 1986), Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (Pantheon, 2003), and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home (Houghton Harcourt, 2006) as potential books to be added to the ELA curriculum. Weaver cautioned the group about the high cost of classroom sets of graphic novels, with some books as high as $30 each. He had turned to crowdfunding platform DonorsChoose to raise money for his class sets.

TK All photos courtesy of Rocco Staino.

Librarians (L to R): Amelia Rodriguez and Sharon Galbraith Ryer (Mercer County Library, NJ); Thomas Maluck (Richland Library, SC); Huyen Diep (Midlands Technical College, SC)

Information about the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries was also shared during “Comics to Expand Your Brain.” The two Eisner grants, administered by the American Library Association (ALA), consist of one that is to fund the expansion of an existing graphic novel program and another to support a new graphic novel collection. ALA also presented panel discussions at Comic Con, including “Saving Indecent Comics,” which featured librarians from all over the United States, including: Thomas Maluck, Richland Library, Columbia, SC; Huyen Diep, Midlands Technical College, Columbia, SC; and Anna Call, Wilmington Memorial Library, Wilmington, MA, to name a few. The librarians delved into how librarianship is an “activist profession” and one that works to keep comics on the shelves. Often, comics are “quietly banned” through “self-censorship,” brought up one librarian.


The floor of Comic Con 2014.

Attendee Ryan Paulsen, a school librarian at the New Rochelle High School in New Rochelle, NY, said that graphic novels are the most visible part of his school library’s collection. He volunteered to SLJ that he often works with his faculty to incorporate graphic literature into their lessons, and recently he collaborated with an English teacher on a unit on comparative storytelling. The culmination was the class adapting Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables into graphic novel format.

Celebrities, including George Clooney, were on hand at this year’s Comic Con, but for librarians, it was the publisher exhibits that drew their attention, with names such as Maureen Johnson, Alex London, R.L. Stine, George O’Conner, and Neil Gaiman.

Cory Doctorow was at the First Second exhibit and took some time to talk with SLJ about his new graphic novel, In Real Life (First Second, 2014). The clip of the conversation is below:

You may also want to read:

New York Comic Con: Highlights and Surprises

Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.

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