Librarianship | April 22, 2020
In the third and final installment of our Meet the Jurors series, we’re highlighting SEE-IT Award juror, Richard Graham, a comic, graphic novel and vintage French mopeds’ enthusiast.
The SEE-IT (Stories Engagingly Expressed — Illustratively Told) Awards were created to recognize and showcase the year’s best graphic novels written by youth authors. Since its inception, there have been three winners: The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded, by Jim Ottaviani, The Witch Boy, by Molly Knox Ostertag and Speak: The Graphic Novel, by Laurie Halse Anderson. This year’s SEE-IT Award finalists will be announced in late April.
Richard Graham, an Associate Professor and Media Services Librarian at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is one of this year’s SEE-IT jurors. Graham was nominated for both Eisner and Harvey awards for Best Archival Collection for his book, Government Issue: Comics for the People, 1940s-2000s and is currently the managing editor for SANE Journal (Sequential Art Narratives in Education), a peer-reviewed journal dedicated to using comics in the classroom.
We reached out to Graham to discuss where his passion for comics came from and ways in which he encourages youth library patrons to delve into the genre.
It’s a cliché and even an anachronism at this point, but I love books and literature. I studied with hopes to be an English professor, but my nights working as an undergrad at the University Library, reading the Chronicle of Higher Education, led to me consider librarianship instead. I became a staff member and really enjoyed helping patrons and their diverse research needs and so pursued an MLS.
That’s a very difficult question — certain authors/artists and even genres wax and wane as favorites. A top title that I constantly recommend to others is Tom Hart’s Rosalie Lightning. It will make you weep, but it’s also a roadmap on surviving trauma. No easy task to teach others how to deal with immense grief. I like to teach this book because Tom is a master storyteller in the comics medium: his paneling and pacing is deliberate, the balance between image and word is divine, his story sincere and raw.
Not only are new voices and stories being told through the graphic novel medium, but it also attracts a diverse group of readers. Many patrons will read a story in the graphic novel format that they wouldn’t enjoy otherwise. There is a very little entry barrier to becoming hooked on the story when you open and begin to look inside a graphic novel.
Graphic novels and comics have proven to scaffold literacy, boost confidence in readers and help instill lifelong reading and learning skills.
It’s important to see oneself represented in authentic, meaningful ways. Comics and graphic novels speak a visual language that younger readers are quick to grasp. Graphic novels can help their younger readers by expressing many of the trials and tribulations they may not be able to articulate themselves — or they can provide vicarious experiences that offer chances to learn and grow. But most certainly, graphic novels are an important part of print culture that will continue with new generations.
Graphic novels and comics have proven to scaffold literacy, boost confidence in readers and help instill lifelong reading and learning skills. The economy of text makes them approachable to all reading levels, and compelling stories will nudge readers to the finish line, accomplishing a task. Comics provide a quick win for anyone struggling with reading and will bring them back for more.
Visit the SEE-IT Awards website for more information on the awards. Be sure to look for the announcement of the SEE-IT Awards finalists in late April.
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