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Send Us Your Shelf Porn!

by  in Comic News Comment

Thank you for joining us for a very special, educational edition of Send Us Your Shelf Porn. Today’s guest is Ohio teacher Chris Peace, who is trying to improve his students’ reading skills by introducing them to comics. He’s even put together a small graphic novel library for them, which you can see in the photo above.

But Chris does a much better job explaining his collection than I ever could, so I’ll let him take over …

I’m a high school English teacher currently plying my trade at Middletown High School in Middletown, Ohio. It’s a wonderful place to work; I can safely say I’ve never worked with a better staff of teachers or administrators in my career. One of the challenges of my job involves working with students whose reading comprehension skills are well below high school levels. Working with fourteen year olds who read at a third or fourth grade reading level is not uncommon. These students are often incredibly self conscious about what they perceive as a deficiency in their education, to the point where they’re reticent to read ANYTHING.

In an effort to combat this problem, I have been working hard over the past two years to assemble a comic book and graphic novel lending library for my classroom. As our school does not have the funds to cover a project like this, the library has been assembled by myself using a variety of means. Some of the books in my classroom’s library are from my own collection… I’ll upgrade to a hardcover collection for myself and bring in the trade paperbacks for the school. Quite a few were acquired through lucky thrift store finds, sales at Half Price Books, or trades on Swaptree.com. The majority of comics, however came from donations made through DonorsChoose.org, an amazing website that allows teachers to draft and present proposals for essential classroom needs, and then have those projects funded by donations from charitable citizens. I’ve had four comics related proposals funded through DonorsChoose, including a nice collection of Marvel Essentials titles that I received just last week.

The library has been a boon to my classroom and especially to those students who struggle with reading. A teenager whose reading level is low would be really embarrassed to take out Encyclopedia Brown on the bus, but they have no problem reading Bone or Green Lantern. Students give up their lunch periods to sit in my room and browse my newest acquisitions. Most tell me that they love comics but often don’t have the opportunity to read them, especially “new” ones.


The top shelf includes a LOT of really popular books, chief among them The Walking Dead. TWD is probably THE most read book in the entire library. I think there’s something about “end of the world” fiction- Y the Last Man has been big as well. Also big: The Umbrella Academy and Lucy Knisley’s French Milk. The latter is a new addition to the library but much loved by all my Freshman who are currently starting to learn French. Watchmen was big last year but hasn’t been checked out as much lately; I think that’s probably blowback from the movie, which most of my kids saw before the comic.


The second shelf down is mainly DC stuff. I think I’m probably betraying a bit of my own Grant Morrison bias here, but his Batman run is really popular, regardless of whether or not I dig his stuff. Also popular are most of the Green Lantern titles.


Third shelf: Mostly Marvel, mostly although by far the most exciting thing for most of my students here are the Scott Pilgrim trades. I had never read them before the beginning of this year, but I’m already on my second set. The Pilgrim books have a way of growing legs and walking out the door, which is one of the risks when it comes to putting together a library like this… but I always hope they go somewhere a kid who may not be a reader will enjoy them. I’m constantly getting asked when the next book is coming out, and well used to students getting upset when I tell them that there’s only going to be one more. Just as popular as Scott Pilgrim are Lars Brown’s Northworld series.


Fourth shelf includes a bunch of Image and independent stuff. I have to mention that although the Bone One Volume looks like it’s been through the wars, by far the the most popular book here is Kevin Cannon’s Far Arden. I honestly never would have guessed the reaction of the readers who pick this one up, but it’s universally loved by everyone who reads it. It’s an awesome book and really easy to love.


Final Shelf: Marvel Essentials, DC Showcase volumes, and a couple of manga titles. Honestly, if Marvel could have kept on publishing that Godzilla title from the 1970’s, they’d have a ridiculous hit on their hands, judging from how crazed most of my students are about them. The Essential Godzilla has actually ignited a weirdly passionate debate in my classroom that I wrote a comic about here.

(For the record, I’d have to go with the Hulk in that one.)

I’m currently working on beefing up the manga section of the library. It’s not an area of comics that I’m well-informed about, but my students are quickly schooling me. I’ve got a couple of kids working on a proposal for new manga right now.

If anyone is interested in donating to the cause of bringing comics to kids who really need them, please click over to my DonorsChoose giving page.  I’ve got several comics-related proposals up right now.