A Book Debate

While at a book store, I’m just as likely to be watching the people there as I am to be looking at the books. I look at what they are reading, what they are buying, and which books they are chatting with others about. And that was the case this morning, Columbus Day, as I was perusing the children’s book section. Sitting in the center, at a small table, was a mom and three children of varying ages. I was walking past them when I heard the girl’s voice rise to a shrill in disagreement over a book, and that’s when I immediately stopped and feigned interest in a book on a shelf nearest them so I could hear more.

A child arguing for a book stops me in my tracks every time. I am always curious at their desires in reading and in their reasoning. I especially wanted to hear a bit of this one due to her passionate rise in voice level and the topic. The daughter wanted a book the mother was against. The book in question was a graphic novel. Just for explanation, graphic novels are book forms of what might be best described as comic strips. Unlike a comic book that comes in a short format and typically part of a long periodical series, a graphic novel tells a complete fiction, non-fiction, or biographic story. The words and the art work hand in hand and they are written for all age groups.

The mom at the book store said she was not buying a book that didn’t have a story. The daughter said, “This has chapters just like a book, it tells a story, and doesn’t have as many words, but it still has enough that you have to read it too.” The best part of what happened next was she reasoned and negotiated with the mom. She asked the mom to look at the book and then decide. She told the mom to “look at the words and see they are long complex words like in other books.” Oh I wanted to run to the intercom of the store and say for all to hear, “Attention shoppers – there’s an amazing reader in the children’s section that you should all go praise because she gets it, she really gets it!” Ok, I know I would have been escorted out of the store by security and embarrassed the girl, so I held myself back.

This girl, of about 9 or 10, was arguing for her reading choice on a day off from school. For teachers and librarians, and really parents too, this is such a great accomplishment worthy of high praise. I’m happy to say her mom took a look at the book and said okay. This was a win not just for the girl, but for the graphic novel as well.

Graphic novels are one of the most checked out section of books at the library. I have a special appreciation for them because I believe they are one book that fits most. They are a great fit for the reader right at their reading level, they are an encouraging fit for the reluctant reader or struggling reader because the pictures help tell the story and keep the child’s attention and assist with building vocabulary, and they are complex and challenging enough for a gifted reader in that there are multiple levels of observation, interpretation, and reading happening at once. There is not another form of books that I know of which fits these diverse readers as well as graphic novels. Parents are rarely fans of them because they associate them with comic books of their childhood or don’t believe there are enough words for a story to be read in them. Kids love them because of the opposite, they are reading a story not just in words, but visually as well.

Throughout my day I thought of that girl at the bookstore and I grinned each time. To hear a young reader present an argument for a book in such an intelligent and meaningful way confirms that books matter just as much as they always have and that even children can explain their importance. I sincerely hope that a disagreement or debate you have soon is over a book. Because really, there are much worse arguments to have with your child. Listen to the child’s argument and case for their reading choice, it might surprise you how much they can explain their preferences, and how proud you become over their reading rational.

Leslie Scott is the Director for the Prosper Community Library.

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