Literary Activism

Action Item: Graphic Novels in NM & Revisiting Liberation Library

Leila Roy

Staff Writer

After a lengthy stint as a children's bookseller, Leila Roy took a step sideways into the library world. There, she does the same thing she did as a bookseller—matching people with stories in any and all formats, whether print, audio, film, comic, or some newfangled hybrid—but doesn't have to deal with changing the tape on the cash register. She lives in Maine with her husband, where she runs her small-town library and occasionally tries to rescue wildlife from her cat, who is a murderer. In addition to talking books at her long-running blog, Bookshelves of Doom, she's a weekly columnist at Kirkus Reviews. Blog: Bookshelves of Doom Twitter: @bkshelvesofdoom

Late last year, librarian Angie Manfredi took to Twitter with a challenge: How many classrooms in need could the book community fund over the course of one day? Other librarians and bloggers and authors and industry folk joined in, and it quickly became apparent that there were a whole lot of people out there just itching to do some good, whether by spreading the word or opening their wallets or both.

On Inauguration Day, we (we being Kelly Jensen and Leila Roy) put together a list of classrooms in need, with a focus on classrooms that served immigrant, refugee, and ESL communities. With the help of Book Twitter, every single one of those classrooms was fully funded by the end of the day. Since then, every Friday, we’ve continued to highlight and advocate for similar classrooms, and again and again Book Twitter has come through.

Now, we’re bringing our Fund ‘Em Fridays to you, the Book Riot Community. Please boost, donate if you can, or even pick out a classroom to personally champion!

This week, we’re switching things up a bit. As usual, we’ve picked out a classroom project to fund, but today, we’d also like to revisit Chicago’s Liberation Library, which you may remember from this post late last year.

First up, our classroom! This classroom serves a high poverty population on a Native American reservation, and is looking to fund a library of graphic novels for use at home to encourage intergenerational learning and involvement:

Graphic Novels – Who Knew Reading Could Be So Fun!, in Magdalena, New Mexico:

I teach on a Native American reservation, and it is a challenge to get my students excited about reading. Many have parents or grandparents who only speak in their native language, however, the kids speak more English in school. This means they have two languages, but are not fluent in either one. I want to involve parents by having a reader’s theater night once or twice a month. Parents can practice reading scripts or graphic novels at home, then perform their scene for the other families. Studies show that kids who read at home are more likely to enjoy reading in school. They have better reading comprehension skills and they do better in all of their other classes. Graphic novels use dialogue to tell the story, so they would be an excellent tool to facilitate a reader’s theater. It would also be a great way to introduce parents to a whole new genre.

Next up, the Liberation Library wishlist!

Chicago’s Liberation Library believes that “access to books is a right, not a privilege,” so they provide books to youth in prison “to encourage imagination, self-determination and connection to the outside worlds of their choosing.”

There are a few different ways to help them out—and if you’re in the area, that includes volunteering in person!—but the easiest by far is to click on over to their Amazon wishlist and send some needed books their way.

One more time, here’s the link to the wishlist!


Sometimes, the sheer enormity of all of the wrongs we have to right, the injustices we have to fight, the work we have to do… it can feel overwhelming. Funding a single classroom might feel like a drop in the bucket. But a single drop of water causes ripples, and a single classroom ultimately serves a larger community. Small actions make change. Join us.