Should graphics novels and mangas be allowed in school libraries?

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During the heyday of the 1990s, it was a common sight to see comics and mangas almost everywhere, such as book store, newsstands, and sometimes, even super markets. Today, it is rare to even find comics on the newsstands as comics and mangas have now become a specialty niche market here in Malaysia. I vividly remember the days where Archie digests lined up the racks of small shelves at the cornerstone, alongside translated tankabon versions of Dragon Ball (Mutiara Naga), Dragon Quest (Misteri Naga) and much more. Fast forward 2 decades later…

The reading culture as a whole, has taken a headfirst plunge into obscurity as the only book people read today, sad to say, is Facebook. Almost everyone I know has their noses buried deep in their electronic devices, be it a phone or a tablet. Instead of reading, we are scrolling and consuming news without even verifying the source it is taken from. While there are great devices that emulate the reading culture today (Kindle comes to mind), nothing can replace the feeling of holding a good book and flipping through its pages. Which ultimately brings us to…

Photos taken by Mikikazu Komatsu by courtesy of Yokoyama Memorial Manga Museum

What can we do to restore the enjoyment of reading once again? Reading is a habit that has to be instilled in everyone when they are young, and to be perfectly honest, a story book filled with small, black words is not going to cut it in today’s era. In order to create a lasting legacy of people who will carry on reading, the mindset of the older generation has to change to allow for creative solutions.

Enter graphic novels and mangas. While some graphic novels and mangas are too explicit for the liking of anyone, there is also an equal amount that has great content that is suitable for reading. Facing facts, the school library is a dead town when teachers are not forcing their students to go in there. While there is a handful of students (geeks to some) that will be holed up in the library forever, that in itself does not necessarily translate to a healthy reading culture among students.

Reading should be enjoyable and accessible to anyone at any time. In my honest opinion, having graphic novels and mangas in school libraries would easily instill the reading culture among students today. Discounting all the inappropriate titles (trust me, there is a bucket load of them), there is a huge selection of great graphic novels and mangas available out there in the market that focus heavily on its story and characters.

In other countries such as Japan and Australia, graphic novels and mangas have a section to itself, and it is easily the most occupied one. While they are many naysayers to this form of reading, I believe reading these books is better than playing truant or lighting up a cigarette behind the school compounds. In the light of heightened social issues among youngsters today, being caught for reading manga is hardly an issue.

The question is, when will Malaysia be adopting this creative approach to the libraries in schools, or is the idea too farfetched for us?

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