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Graphic novels, eBooks on students’ summer reading list

The Manga comics, which are read back-to-front, are very popular with students.

Tom Miley, a media specialist for Baltimore County Public Schools, relayed something of an odd desire to a group of summer school reading students at Ridgely Middle School in Lutherville, Md., on July 25.

“My goal in two or three years is to be out of a job in the summers, because there are no more reading students in summer school,” he told one class.

And to accomplish that, Miley has spent the last couple of weeks introducing the nearly 1,600 summer school reading students at the county’s five summer school locations about alternative ways to pique their interest in reading — including graphic novels and eBooks.

“I just want the kids to read,” Miley said, who works at Deer Park Middle Magnet School in Randallstown during the school year. One way to accomplish that, he said, was to introduce them to mediums that wouldn’t feel like the assigned classroom reading that students are susceptible to buck against.

Last week, Miley explored the world of graphic novels with the students, explaining the variety of options available that can engage young readers without it feeling like a chore.

He encouraged them to check out the county library system’s collection of fiction, non-fiction, and Manga comic books from Japan.

Before he began the presentations, Miley said he rearranged each summer school library so that all of the graphic novels were in one spot. After his first presentation, students flocked to that shelf to check them out.

The Manga comics, which are read back-to-front, are very popular with students, he said, but students are also interested in the classics in graphic novel form.

On the shelf at Ridgely, lighter fare was flanked by Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Miley said that in their original form, students could get hung up in the language, but the graphic novels distilled it into modern, visual terms and still grasp the stories’ themes and meanings.

This week’s presentation centered around eBooks, which are readily available to all BCPS students both at home and at school.

“The wonderful things about the eBooks is they’re available to our students 24/7,” said Christine Beard, librarian at Ridgely Middle. “There’s no reason for a child to say they can’t have access to a book.”

As was the case with the graphic novels, which provide more than just words to help students grasp stories and concepts, Miley said the eBooks appeal to the variety of learning types in any Baltimore County classroom.

Students who are more skilled with a mouse or tablet in their hands than a book can access literature that way, while some eBooks have functions that allow students to plug in headphones and listen to audio versions of the books.

Miley got the students’ attention in one demonstration by showing them the eBook of Catching Fire, second in the wildly popular Hunger Games series.

One student, Charlie Ryan, 12, of Lutherville, had his phone with him. Miley took him through the steps of accessing eBooks through the county school library system.

Now that he knows they’re available, Charlie said he intended to use the database more often.

The books are available on any device with a web browser, from a standard iPhone to Nintendo DS systems and old-school flip phones, and as eBooks become more readily available, the county school libraries are hoping to expand their catalogs.

“Every textbook they read in the classrooms, I try to have a library copy in textbook and eBook form,” Beard said.

Baltimore County Public School students who know their login ID and password can access their school library’s cache of e-books by visiting

Copyright (c) 2012, Towson Times (Towson, Md.). Visit Towson Times online at Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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