Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A celebration of E.B. White, a fundraiser for First Book—Manhattan

I'm heading back to Broadway! I hope that you'll join me in supporting First Book—Manhattan as celebrated actors read from the works of E.B. White!

Help First Book get new books into the hands of kids who need them!

Last year's event was magical, and this year will prove to be no different.

Tickets are available at: http://www.symphonyspace.org/event/8497/Family-Literature/thalia-kids-book-club-terrific-tails-a-celebration-of-eb-white

Monday, September 29, 2014

Lunch Lady exhibit in Worcester, MA!

"All Hail the Lunch Lady," an exhibit of original works from the Lunch Lady books opens at the Worcester Historical Museum this Friday!  A book signing is happening on October 28th from 3-5 PM. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Graphic Novels and Quiet Book Bans


I have visited countless schools over the years, creating memories that will last with me, and hopefully with the students, for a lifetime. But one story that keeps coming back to the forefront of my mind is a visit that never happened—because I wasn't welcomed.

I was planning a visit to the Midwest, and the hosting school librarian was hoping to share travel costs with a colleague at a neighboring school. That librarian excitedly ran to her principal's office with a copy of Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute in hand. As the story was relayed to me, the principal took one look at the book and said, "I spent my childhood with my face in the pages of comic books...when I should have been reading real books. So I am not going to have that man come to our school and promote comics."

I was heartbroken.

There are so many aspects of that sentiment that are just off. Glaringly, that the principal was failing to see that by her reading comics, she found a love of reading, and that love of reading led her to great things. (Unless, of course, her goal was to become superintendent and all of that time with Archie and Jughead had held her back...) But what makes me most sad is that her student body would never connect with my story of perseverance.

It is the American Library Association's Banned Books Week, and what alarms me most is not the bans that make headlines, but the quiet book bans. As a creator of graphic novels, I hear so many stories of graphic novels being banned from a classroom because they're not considered "real books" or "real reading." When I hear that, my mind goes to the disservice adults are creating for their young readers. One story that I heard recently was of a fourth-grade teacher who banned comics from her classroom because kids were only reading them for entertainment. But isn't that what free reading is all about? Entertainment? Shouldn't we all be instilling a love of reading? I, for one, don't know where I'd be if it were not for the pages of a comic. It isn't just that I wouldn't be telling stories visually today, but I wouldn't be reading much of anything. Comics taught me that reading could be an escape, and a wonderfully joyous act.

Last week I travelled to our nation's capital to speak to a group of elementary-aged students at the Library of Congress. It was such an honor to have been welcomed to that hallowed space for a second time to talk about visual literacy. It says a lot that one of our nation's preeminent educational institution hosts graphic novelists in their programming. But meanwhile, back at home, my wife Gina was with our daughter at a local library. There, she met a mother who wanted her child to stop reading graphic novels because they were reading too many of them, and it's all that they checked out from the library. Gina gently explained to the mother that there were so many different kinds of comics, and that they offered a wide variety of stories. (Not every comic contains a fart joke...)

And this is how we will overcome these quiet bans—with gentle conversations. Reading is the key to a lifetime of success, and for so many young readers comics are just what they need to develop a love of reading.

I don't vilify that principal, or that fourth grade teacher, or that mother. In their hearts, they were/are doing what they believe to be best for the kids that they serve. I just think that their point-of-view is slightly misplaced. Perhaps you know somebody in your young reader's life that could benefit from a better understanding of how comics can help young readers.

Here are some great resources:

Using Comics and Graphic Novels in the Classroom 
National Council of Teachers of English

Understanding, Using and Defending GNs
The Cooperative Children's Book Center, University of Wisconsin

Resources for Teaching Graphic Novels in the Classroom
School Library Journal

Raising a Reader
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

*Check out great Freadom items on the ABFFE website here.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Massachusetts library events in September! I'll see you in Western and Eastern Mass!

Hey, Massachusetts friends! I'll be at two public libraries next week. 

This Tuesday at 3 PM I'll be at Newton Free Library to talk about comics and creativity. Book sales via Wellesley Books! 

And on Thursday of next week, find me at Hubbard Library in Ludlow, MA at 6 PM! 

See ya along the Mass Pike! 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A great morning at the Library of Congress!

Bravo to the staff of the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress! They bring DC-area students to that magnificent space & connect them with authors!

I had such a wonderful time. And with all events at the LOC, it was recorded and  will eventually be on their YouTube page. I'll give a shout when that happens!

A shout out to Rachael Walker, champion of literacy initiatives everywhere!

A shout out to Rachael Walker—a hero to literacy programs and general awesomeness. Rachael helped found Read Across America (and continues to consult with the program), she gave me key advice when School Lunch Hero Day was starting up and she works with publishers on creating educational materials for their books. If you're not using her Reading Rockets videos in your libraries and classrooms, you're really missing out. Rachael isn't one to want attention, but I am happy to give her plaudits, because she so deserves them. If you're ever looking for someone to consult on a reading initiative, create downloadable activities for an author website or a generous person in your life, look no further! 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A visit to NEA headquarters!

I had the great pleasure of visiting the headquarters of the National Education Association today in DC. I recorded PSAs for Read Across America and Education Support Professionals. I also had the honor of meeting the new president, Lily Ekelson GarcĂ­a. There are a number of things I love about her. Among them:
1) She got her start in the school cafeteria. 
2) She opposes standardized testing. 
3) In her office, she displays photos of every single classroom that she ever taught. 

United Through Reading

What an honor it was to help United Through Reading with their mission today. United Through Reading videotapes service men and women reading books to their children, and that DVD is then delivered to the child at home. United Through Reading has 200 stations worldwide—on ships deployed, in forward operating locations in places like Afghanistan, at military hospitals... I recorded PSAs about how important it is to read to your child—it creates such an important bond between parent and child. I'm lucky enough to read to my kids every night, and United Through Reading helps bridge the gap of separation for those who serve in our military.   Learn more at unitedthroughreading.org

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Lunch Lady lecture at the Library of Congress on Sept 17!

Hey, D.C.-area friends—on Wednesday, September 17 at 10:30 AM, I will be at the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress. It will be a field trip for a local school, but the presentation is also open to the public. Book signing to follow at 11:30 AM.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Kids' Comics Exhibit in Las Vegas

“BAM! It’s a Picture Book: The Art Behind Graphic Novels,” is an exhibit curated by the NICCL that  features original art from graphic novels for young readers. It's traveling the country and is currently in Las Vegas! Look for art by Matthew Holm, Lincoln Peirce, Mark Crilley, Raina Telgemeier and me! The show will be up through Nov. 25 in the Historic Fifth Street School Mayor’s Gallery, 401 S. Fourth St. 
For more information, visit artslasvegas.org.