Friday, March 17, 2017

Reading Without Walls

We seem to have an issue with walls.

I'm not referring to the wall that divided voters- the one that that guy wants to build in our country.

I'm talking about walls we encounter, and also build, when we read.

Graphic novel author Gene Luen Yang was recently named the newest National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. It's a pretty fancy title, but what it boils down to is that he has been selected as an advocate for children's literature, and related matters such as literacy, education and improving the lives of   young people. if you want to read more about this honor, check out this article in School Library Journal.

I was lucky enough to attend a lecture of his back when I was in grad school, and he was one of the best speakers I saw during that conference. His story about how he got inspired to write Level Up was hilarious, and he's adorable in his unashamed geekiness for video games and graphic novels and technology. I am hoping to see him speak again next month in MA.

Not unlike the recent We Need Diverse Books movement, Yang is using his new platform to appeal to readers to read diversely. Not necessarily read about diversity, but read outside of our comfort zones. In his recent article in School Library Journal, he challenges readers to read: a book with a character who doesn't look or live like you, a book about a topic you don't know much about, a book in a format you don't usually read for fun.

It just so happens that one of my current reads does work with this challenge. This book is about three men who all came from the same city in New Jersey, where drugs and gangs and welfare reign, and all became doctors. One is an internist, one is an ER physician, and the third man is a dentist.

I first found out about this book a year or so ago, when one of the 8th grade boys was reading it. He wanted to find some books with similar stories, about boys who overcome challenging circumstances and make successes of themselves. 

These 'characters' (although this is a non-fiction title) certainly don't look like me, and I never lived in a poor area of a city, and I never went to dental or medical school. In fact, the book begins with George Jenkins writing about how he first became interested in becoming a dentist while he was a child, and that's certainly something I cannot relate to.

I just started it, so I can't write much about it, but it was easy to get into. Although I really can't relate to the characters' lives or struggles or dreams, I do love books where people triumph over adversity.

To anyone reading this post- I challenge you to read a book without your usual walls. Find a different genre, topic, or format than you're comfortable with, and just give it a try. 

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