The Wednesday kick-offs to Comic-Con of years past have always included a big welcome for librarians and educators. While library sessions were out, educators and creators still found plenty to commiserate about in Wednesday’s Books For All panel, where they talked about the importance of honoring the reader and presenting real world images in graphic novels.

Chicago-based educator Adam Ebert moderated a discussion that included educators Jill Gerber (Rowland Hall School), Adam Alvarado (Bloom Township High School) and creators Tony Weaver (CEO, Weird Enough Productions), Yehudi Mercado (Sci-Fu, Fun Fun Fun High School), and Christina “Steenz” Stewart (Archival Quality, Heart of the City).

Panel topics centered around access to representative and age-appropriate content for readers. Gerber and Steenz highlighted the importance of honoring the reader by curating collections that reflect real world diversity versus canned stereotypes. The lack of that representative voice was what motivated Steenz, Mercado and Weaver to create characters of color, role models that they wished they had when growing up. 

As Weaver noted, it wasn’t necessarily the lack of representative materials that bothered him, as much as the fact that people don’t know where to look. Traditional publishers don’t push these books on recommended reading lists, so librarians and educators play a critical role in seeking out these alternative voices, citing:

“We have to decolonialize our mindset around what books are acceptable to put in front of kids and start applying more scrutiny to what publishers are putting out, in going out of our way to find these voices that are marginalized.”

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