by Cheryl Jackson Thursday December 8, 2011

Sometimes we get rock stars on our website. Yes, it's true. For instance, a couple of days ago, Jeff Smith joined us. While he looks like a British rock star he is, in fact, a super star in the world of graphic novels. He's the guy behind the uber successful BONE series and was named one of the ten best graphic novel series of all time by Time Magazine in 2005. Pretty cool. He also works out of this gorgeous one room school house 30 miles outside of Columbus, Ohio. You can see it in the background in our Skype interview. 

Jeff Smith joined us because our book club this month is about graphic novels. Also part of the discussion was Larry Swartz, who brought the academic perspective and author Mahtab Narsimhan. There's also a surprise visit from former Ontario Lieutenant Governor James Bartleman who describes the unlikely way he learned to read. You have to watch that clip to really appreciate how much that man achieved in his life. Truly amazing.

I read a lot of comics as a kid - Archie, Casper the Ghost. I wasn't a fan of superhero comics. Maybe that was a gender thing. The great thing about comics was that they were cheap and available. I could buy them with my allowance at the store down the street and there was always a new one on the rack. My kids read Archie comics too, especially on long drives. Comics have long had a place in kids' lives. Graphic novels, on the other hand, are becoming more and more popular. Question is, do comics and graphic novels turn kids into readers or do they keep kids reading at an elementary level?

We debated this at our book club meeting. And it was a debate. Some people think graphic novels are valuable and should even be used in the classroom. Others think they don't allow kids to develop the attention and committment you need to read a 'proper' novel. Do your kids read graphic novels? Are you worried they'll never read conventional novels?