For me comic books were the gateway to a love of reading. I remember the Fantastic Four and Batman keeping me company on long car rides, The Avengers before there were movies, and realizing when I picked up my first issue of Moon Knight that comics could be more than just fistfights and swooping through cities. Sure Moon Knight did his fair share of swooping, at least when I was a kid, but there was something more: words I didn’t know, sentences that could have come from a novel, and storylines that questioned the world in ways the Uncle Scrooge comics of my youth never dreamed.
Since my car trip days much has changed with both comics and literacy. Educators now realize that graphic storytelling has a place in schools and classrooms. Comics can bolster a young reader’s ability to draw inferences, broaden vocabulary (I still remember when Captain America taught me the word “augment!” Thanks, Cap!), and show non-linear storytelling, transitions, motifs, and character development.
Some teachers use graphic novels, the comic book’s younger, more attractive sibling, in class. “Maus” and “V for Vendetta” are just two I’ve seen on syllabi in my own district. These two titles are nice examples of how the comics themselves have grown up since I was a kid. Certainly my six year old son is more captivated by Spiderman battling The Lizard than his nine year old sister, but for her (and a legion of other students) the reality is that comics no longer mean men in capes. Well, not only men in capes.
Beyond the socially conscious “Maus” and “V for Vendetta,” a raft of graphic novels comes down the YA river every year, with themes personal, relevant, and deep. “Anya’s Ghost,” “Persepolis,” and “Hereville” are just three that I’ll look for in our library. There are literally hundreds more. Any taste, from mystery to history, from coming of age stories to stories that help students understand death and dying, graphic novels have a range greater than ever, and with that range the possibility to touch a huge spectrum of kids’ tastes. While what the young me loved was Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz’s “Fist of Khonshu,” there’s something in the graphic novel world that could appeal to any reader.
What made me so happy when I visited Ms. Coy’s library website was that the Justice League had a space alongside the many other great titles available for kids. At the risk of sounding like a voiceover for an old fashioned movie trailer: “In a world of literary pretension, one place stands as a bastion of acceptance and a welcome place for all: Diegueño Middle School’s library, the family room of campus!”
…where even Moon Knight could feel at home.