Since my last post was about a graphic novel, which is not my preferred reading format, I would like to share some of the insight I gained from hearing Nathan Hale speak at the North Texas Teen Book Festival. Teri Lesesne moderated a panel, entitled “Diversity Is More Than A Hashtag,” which included authors Karen Blumenthal, Cindy Pon, Nathan Hale, and Kathi Appelt. Cindy Pon and Nathan Hale both shared brilliant perspectives on the need for diversity in YA literature. I referenced Cindy Pon’s discussion in my blog post about Carry On, but today, I would like to focus on Nathan Hale’s commentary.
First of all, Nathan Hale is funny; he would be fantastic speaking with young adults. Secondly, he is an advocate for alternative literary formats. Now, as Hale is a graphic novelist, it is not surprising that he enjoys drawing; his need to keep his hands free for doodling led him to checkout audiobooks - an alternative literary format. For him, audiobooks allowed him access to literature without hindering his sketching. I am not a fan of audiobooks; I need to see the words on the page. However, there are plenty of people who enjoy listening to stories and others, such as struggling readers and multitaskers, who would benefit from exposure to them. The necessity of audiobook production is evidenced in the growth of the audiobook industry, “fueled by the increasing popularity of the digital download format” over the last few years (Maughan 23). Despite the numbers and the need, at my library, they are not checked out. We offer recently published, popular ebooks and audiobooks, which are available to students and staff through Follett Shelf; they can listen or read them on their phones or other devices. Now, as a librarian, I realize the need for diversity, in formatting as well as in content, but anytime I suggest an audiobook version to a student, I get turned down. Despite my preferences and my library stats, Hale has me praising the benefits of audiobooks, and my new stance is that, even if they only affect a handful of kids, they’ve still had an effect. Because kids like Hale exist, and I would guarantee I have some.
Graphic novels (another alternative format, which Hale creates), on the other hand, do not require nearly as much suggestion to get checked out. We have our devoted traditional graphic novel readers, as well as our manga readers. Despite the popularity of our graphic novel section, I think there are still some misconceptions that graphic novels are picture books and not necessarily for teenage or adult readers. However, graphic novels provide a sophisticated combination of text and images that rely on multiple literacies to be properly comprehended. The utilization of images to advance the narrative implores readers to infer the transition of events from one panel to the next. This “cognitive leap [is] referred to as ‘closure’” (Watts 39). Pam Watts states “ because closure requires a high level of reader participation, the emotional impact of graphic novels can be quite high. Particularly if the student is reading about something outside his realm of experience, such as the civil rights movement, closure can generate reader empathy for the characters in the story” (39). So, according to Watts, nonfiction graphic novels, such as Hale’s Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, would be an ideal way of teaching history because the readers experience the story, time period, and events, as opposed to digesting information from a textbook. As far as content is concerned, graphic novels provide adult and young adult situations and concepts; for example, Derf Backderf’s My Friend Dahmer delves into the psychological and social implications of creating a serial killer. Furthermore, graphic novels still provide readers with “high-level vocabulary words” (Redondo Beach Educational Foundation). On the other hand, graphic novels can alleviate the reading process for struggling readers or English Language Learners because the imagery can facilitate the comprehension of text. Graphic novels have something to offer every reader - empathy, intellectual stimulation, help, aesthetics.
One more observation provided by Nathan Hale, at NTTBF16, on the topic of genrefication. Hale began by warmly and humorously explaining how his father taught him to choose books in the library - by looking for the books with unicorns or space ships on the spine labels. So after listening to all the fantasy and sci fi audiobooks available, he took a leap of faith - closed his eyes and his fingers found the largest audiobook case on the shelf - Lonesome Dove. In many ways, Lonesome Dove was more exciting than the previous novels he had encountered - insert comment about prostitution here - and he never would have crossed its path if the genres weren’t mixed. I would agree; it makes browsing so much more exciting when you can be surprised by what you find.
If you ever have the opportunity to hear Nathan Hale speak, attend. You’ll learn something and probably laugh a little bit too.
"5 Reasons to Read Graphic Novels and Comics." 5 Reasons to Read Graphic Novels and Comics. Redondo Beach Educational Foundation, 10 July 2014. Web. 31 May 2016. <http://rbef.org/blog/5-reasons-to-read-graphic-novels-and-comics>.
Bello, Grace. "Aural Sex: The Rise In Audiobook Erotica." Publishers Weekly 260.19 (2013): 22-26. Literary Reference Center. Web. 31 May 2016.
MAUGHAN, SHANNON. "APA Survey: Audiobook Sales, Production Still Growing." Publishers Weekly 262.32 (2015): 23. Literary Reference Center. Web. 31 May 2016.
WATTS, PAM. "Graphic Novels Offer Diverse Perspectives, Narratives." Education Digest 81.2 (2015): 38. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 31 May 2016.