Literacy meets comics at Comic Conference for Educators and Librarians
What can teach emerging or unmotivated readers the basics of sequencing, critical thinking, narrative, characters, imagination — even reading comprehension?
Comics can, according to the educators, librarians, publishers, writers and artists participating in the upcoming Comic Conference for Educators and Librarians (CCEL).
"The beauty of this conference is it takes the power of comics and graphic novels and allows professionals in those fields to see how they can best use those as tools to reach those educational and literacy goals," said Joseph Miesner, San Diego Public Library's supervising librarian of adult programming, partnerships and special events.
Comic-Conference for Educators and Librarians
Wednesday, July 20 through Sunday, July 24, 2022
Helen Price Reading Room, 8th floor
San Diego Central Library
330 Park Blvd., downtown
Panel descriptions and schedule
How to attend:
No Comic-Con badge: RSVP here. Space is limited. Free.
With Comic-Con badge: Show your valid same-day or four-day badge at the door.
Launched in 2016, the off-site, San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) affiliated conference on literacy and education will resume in-person this year after virtual programming during "Comic-Con@Home." The CCEL runs Wednesday afternoon, July 20 through Sunday, July 24, 2022.
It's free and open to the public (not just teachers and librarians), and a Comic-Con badge is not required to attend. With a Comic-Con badge, however, you can skip the RSVP process; those without a badge need to register in advance here — though space is limited, so plan ahead.
The event is divided into five days of themed panels, each focusing on a different realm of education and literacy in regard to comics. It kicks off with "Teaching with Comics," an interactive workshop to teach educators how to use comics in the classroom.
The following days feature topics related to libraries (Thursday), publishing (Friday), education (Saturday) and higher education (Sunday).
"This is really a great way for educators and librarians to promote reading and literacy because things like critical thinking, sequencing, imagination, the ability for storytelling and creativity, conversation-starting, understanding characters — all those things become more accessible through the visualization," Miesner said. "Anything that can break down those barriers for people to become more educated, become more literate is really powerful."
Panelists for the event include teachers, school psychologists, scholars and librarians from around the country (as well as locally), publishers, advocates, showrunners and actors, authors and illustrators and more.
Defense against book bans
One topic showing up multiple times across multiple disciplines is book bans or book challenges. Maryelizabeth Yturralde is a bookseller — one of the original co-founders of Mysterious Galaxy Books. She helped program the publishing panels and said that this is a subject still relevant, even in 2022.
"We're seeing attacks on library content, we're seeing attacks on bookstore content, and having something where people can talk about best practices and how to respond and how to keep works available to readers is topical and important and necessary," Yturralde said.
The panel will hopefully open conversations, share tools and tactics for advocacy, as well as building awareness of book bans.
"It's alarming, it's concerning, and it's something that the people on the front line need to know how to respond to," she said.
The publishing panel, "Bans Off Our Books! Responding to Challenges," takes place from 4-5 p.m. on Friday, July 22. The library- and school-centric book ban panels run Thursday from 3-5 p.m. At 4 p.m on Saturday, "Intellectual Freedom for Educators," touches on the recent string of laws proposed to restrict topics in classrooms.
Other themes throughout the conference include empathy, diversity and representation.
"(Representation) helps build confidence in young folks when they're maybe questioning themselves, or don't feel that they fit into the larger community. To see yourself in literature can be a powerful thing and lets people dream big," Miesner said, adding that the fantasy and genre element adds an important component to representation: "So I can reaffirm myself at the same time as shooting for the stars."
Miesner said that the lure of comics can help with motivation — not just in early readers. If someone is behind in literacy or has other barriers toward literacy or reading, comics and graphic novels offer subject matter that's not "babyish" like other literacy aids. This bolsters self-esteem and confidence in reading, which snowballs into more reading.
"You think, ah, a comic book, all fun and games, Miesner said. "But this conference really says, well, wait a minute, this is a powerful tool that can really assist educators and librarians to meet those real, basic goals that are the core of our professions."
More Comic-Con public library goodies
The San Diego Public Library system has a strong presence at each Comic-Con — both on and off the exhibit hall.
Several branches around the city will hold special storytimes, workshops and superhero dance parties throughout Comic-Con weekend.
If you're downtown, you can find a Cosplay Repair Station on the 4th floor of the central library. No appointment is needed, and you can use their sewing machines, 3D printers, laser cutters, soldering irons, simple sewing materials and glues — basically anything you can think of to touch up your costume, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Also of note is the annual, commemorative Comic-Con library card. This year's design is by Tijuana-based artist and illustrator Charles Glaubitz, who recently exhibited work as part of the "Occupy Thirdspace II" exhibition, featured in "5 works of art to see in March."
The new card is the first to be designed in Spanish. Pick up your own at the SDPL booth on the exhibit hall, or at a branch location beginning July 21.