The importance of supporting children reading in any capacity, from novels to graphic novels to audiobooks, is a cause that Jarrett Krosoczka is passionate about. On Friday, November 8, award-winning author and illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka held a workshop and lecture in the Mountain View Room of the Student Center entitled “Reaching the Reluctant Reader.”
KSC assistant English Professor Christopher Parsons introduced Krosoczka.
“[Krosoczka] is the author of the graphic memoir “Hey Kiddo” which we have had the opportunity to read in a couple of classes here at Keene State,” Parsons said. “It has been so meaningful for our students in those courses to start to think about education through narratives and through story instead of just doing it through textbooks.”
Krosoczka discussed his multiple graphic novels including his graphic memoir “Hey, Kiddo” that tells the story of his childhood. Krosoczka’s mother was addicted to heroin when he was a child. As a result, he was raised by his grandparents in his hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts. All his life, reading and drawing have played an essential role.
“I don’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t draw pictures,” Krosoczka said.
Krosoczka also addressed the importance of libraries and librarians and how they foster a love for reading and learning that is often overlooked.
“We have librarians to thank for where we are with graphic novels. It’s the school librarians and public librarians who have championed this format over the past 15 or so years to get us where we are today,” Krosoczka said. “They still have to have conversations with people who come in and say ‘don’t let my kid check out a comic, just a real book,’ which is a detriment to that kid because a comic could be what’s keeping that kid afloat. It’s what’s hooking that reader in.”
Krosoczka also mentioned the significant role that teachers played in his early life.
“I get to share the story of not only my progress as an artist but how my teachers lifted me up,” Krosoczka said. “Some teachers were aware of my familial situation and some didn’t know the extent of it until they read this book. I think it is profoundly beautiful that they were just doing their job as teachers and educators, which was building young people up and supporting them.”
Many students in attendance at the event were education majors. KSC junior and secondary education and English major Autumn Lagace-Hazeltine attended the lecture in hopes of learning more about how to reach reluctant readers.
“I feel like in an age where students are so obsessed with media and technology access it’s really important for students to get back to reading,” Lagace-Hazeltine said. “I think one of the ways we need to look at how to get them interested in reading is we might consider alternative means like the graphic memoir and working with graphic novels. I think it’s so important.”
One thing Krosoczka stressed was that students and children should be reading whatever motivates them to read in the first place.
“There’s no reason a kid can’t have both “Captain Underpants” and “Charlotte’s Web” in their life,” Krosoczka said.
Krosoczka also explored the options of picture-only books and audiobooks that are more accessible to a wider group of people. Books that become movies also often appeal to young readers because the characters are then recognizable to them, drawing them into the book.
“The pictures tell the story. They’re the storytelling devices, just like the words are,” Krosoczka said.
Representation of people of all races and backgrounds was another issue Krosoczka discussed by citing statistics that found 50 percent of characters in graphic novels in 2018 were white.
Krosoczka also went through his process of creating “Hey, Kiddo” for the audience. He tapped into memories from his childhood and worked mostly on this project himself due to the personal nature of it. He also explained the process of creating the graphics himself using ink and water and a lightbox.
More about Krosoczka and his work can be found at http://www.studiojjk.com.
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at