Manga Mania!

I dearly love anything that gets people reading.  While I wouldn’t read most of Oprah’s picks myself, there are some good books on the list and if they get people reading a book who would not otherwise make their way to the bookstore, I say GO OPRAH!

I get even more excited when we’re talking about getting kids to read.  The best thing about the Harry Potter books is that not only did they get kids to read books, they got kids to read BIG books.  It blew the myth that kids wouldn’t read a big book right out of the water.

So I was really interested in an article in Sunday’s New York Times about Manga Mania at the local library.  Manga is a form of Japanese graphic novel.  They aren’t what I typically think of as comic books — more like glossy magazines and trade paperback-sized books.  There are a variety of genres — shojo (romantic – like Sailor Moon),  shonen (action), sports and games, historical drama, mystery and horror — geared to different ages (josei manga, for example, are romantic stories aimed at older female readers).  It’s not my personal cup of tea, but it has really become popular in the US in the last few years.  A quick Google search for info on manga and libraries showed lots and lots of articles from readers and librarians.  Definitely a hot topic.

But here’s the really exciting part! Not only are kids reading the manga — a good thing in itself — they are also branching out into other areas.  They are learning Japanese, they are reading about Japanese history, they are drawing their own manga.  It’s a gateway book – first they read other kinds of manga, then (maybe) they read other kinds of books.  They start hanging out in libraries and bookstores.  They need bigger and bigger bookshelves to contain their addictions.  Great stuff – all of us booklovers have been through it.  And I really love that the libraries are supporting it with clubs and new titles.  Libraries shouldn’t be stuffy and unfriendly; they should welcome young readers of all kinds.  I have always believed that kids who learn to love reading and libraries have a significant advantage over other kids.  Reading is a habit that pays dividends all through life.

I was thrilled to find that my local library has more than 200 manga titles on the shelves!  I know from talking to the folks at my library that they are expanding their collections of audiobooks and classic movies on dvd.  How about yours? I applaud their efforts to make the library a place that readers of all ages want to hang out, and for providing us with things we should read, as well as the things we really want to read.

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