The free Booklist Webinar “Reaching Reluctant Readers” featured prominent representatives of top Reluctant Reader publishers. While interesting from the perspective of a librarian, the presentation contained some disturbing facets applicable to this class.

Just so you know, it was not all doom and gloom! On one side of the issue was Carrie Gleason, childrens book publisher at James Lorimer in Toronto,which is distributed through ORCA in the US. Their book War Games is centered around a male protagonist who deals with his father’s deployment through a videogame called Desert Death. Andrew Wooldridge, Publisher at Orca, explained “as technology changes, there are now more ways to reach reluctant readers.” He went on to discuss this in some length in relation to expanding their presence in the digital realm in order to work with teachers and institutions, as well as to cater to a wider variety of learning styles, language proficiencies, and reading abilities.

OK, now on to my issues with the webinar. Dan Verdick, Director of ABDO Marketing went on a self proclaimed “rant” about matching publications contained within library collections to student interests. In other words, comics can be worthwhile reading too! Not even a minute later, however, he was talking about books that took place during WWII that could appeal to the Call of Duty crowd. He stated that it was disturbing that 99% of boys play videogames in the US and 65% of those play them every day. According to Verdick, “these statistics are depressing.” It was surprising to hear such a strong proponant for the use of comics and graphic novels to teach Common Core Standards and vocabulary skills completely discount the potential use of videogames for this purpose. But he wasn’t alone.

Jason Wells, Executive Director of Publicity and Marketing, and Susan Van Metre, publisher, at Abrams Books for Young Readers also presented on this topic. They specifically promoted “The Jewel Fish of Karnak” by Graeme Base as a book centered around ancient Egypt lore that includes puzzles “to get students away from video games and gadgets.” Yet just prior to saying this, they talked about their Topps Books series: chapter books for readers ages 7-9, focused on sports, that include collectible trading cards and links to websites where they can create their own teams, personalized avatar, and interact with other readers. This is me not getting on my soap box to rant about hypocrisy in publishing, yada, yada, yada.