I confess that I saved all my books from when I was a young girl. One of the common traits of girls with autism is that they read fiction at an insane rate. The only person I know who has read as many young adult novels as I have, in fact, is my friend Melissa, who also has autism.
So I have a stash in the back of my kids’ closet of the books. I started giving away the girl books when I realized they were never going to read about ballerinas. But I still have a bunch.
Except it’s clear that my sons are not interested. Given the choice, they’ll always pick a graphic novel. At first I thought they were lazy readers. But my older son reads almost as obsessively as I do, so clearly he is not lazy.
I was relieved to read research from Jeremy Short at University of Oklahoma who finds that students learn more effectively from graphic novels than from traditional textbooks. This gave me the confidence to buy history books as graphic novels, and the new, A Wrinkle in Time graphic novel. (Which, by the way, got a nice review in the New York Times.)
I remember the discussion when Maus came out, that the Holocaust was too important a topic to be treated as a comic. And the same was said of Phoebe Glockers’s graphic novel which was a memoir of her disturbing childhood. So we have already established that we can cover deep and meaningful things in via graphic novels.
Now, I think, we are establishing that graphic novels are good for everything.
Many parents will have a hard time with this. Most of us imagined sharing our favorite books with our kids. But now that I think about it, I spent a lot of my childhood accepting gifts from well-meaning adults and then putting them on my bookshelf unread, forever.
There’s a reason most of you have never read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. They are great stories, they are just not told in your vernacular. Much of the pleasure of reading is seeing life reflected back to you in your vernacular.
You will say, in the comments, that we also read to expand our experience and our exposure to other times. But to that I say: then you should probably read Chaucer and let your kids read the graphic novel version of Ninjago or Babysitters Club or whatever else would not pass muster in the national curriculum.