This is a guest post by Heather Gray, a student at Fitchburg State University majoring in English and Middle School Education.

I have had a long-time struggle with criticism about my choices in literature. It has always seemed as if nobody understood why I wanted to read the genres I chose to read. Teachers would regularly ask me to try a non-fiction book, or tell me to read something with more substance. Substance……the word I have pondered for years trying to find its meaning.

As an English major, and a future English teacher, I am proud to say that I am pro- comic books, and pro- graphic novels. This sometimes surprises people; they wonder why I would favor students reading this “trash”. My answer is simple: I’m pro-reading, no matter what the genre.

Reading leads to learning and learning leads to becoming knowledgeable, and knowledge is power. This “trash” the students are choosing to read is the hook that’s getting them reading—and reading anything can invoke the learning process. Wouldn’t you rather that your kids, students, or grandchildren are reading something, than reading nothing at all?

My favorite books are by Jodi Picoult. She has written 21 wonderful novels for young adults and older. All of her novels are fiction, but are based on issues drawn from real life. Her novels all have very different, but well thought out topics, and she manages to pull readers in and make them want to keep reading. Not only are her books enticing and creative, but they contain an abundance of knowledge.

At the moment I am reading House Rules, a novel written by Picoult in 2010. This novel is a murder mystery, and about a young man with Asperger’s, and a family trying to stick together when times get tough. While many authors would only focus on the drama of the story, Picoult focuses on the Asperger’s disease itself and crime scene analyses. Picoult digs deep and gives her readers a great deal of knowledge on these subjects all the while keeping them interested in the story line.

By researching the topics and showing the reader research-backed results, authors of fiction such as Picoult are teaching readers, proving that one can learn from fiction. Every time I read one of Picoult’s novels I feel as if I have gained a little more substance on the subjects Picoult covers.

You can also learn from literature such as comic books, graphic novels, cookbooks, magazines, and romance novels. No matter what you are interested in, there is bound to be something informative between the covers. No literature should be deemed “trash” simply because of its format or genre.

Every piece of literature has a purpose, whether a historical biography or Fifty Shades of Grey. To call any piece of literature “trash” would imply that there is no use for it. While you may not see its use, or you may not be interested in it, others may.

If you want to be a lifelong learner—if you want to obtain a broad education and love learning new things as I do—I suggest you pick up all types of literature and keep an open mind about what contains information that you can learn from.

If you are curious about law, but are not a lawyer, what’s wrong with picking up a love story about a lawyer and his secretary? There’s bound to be law terminology and information that will help you understand what the career entails. If you’re interested in Beowulf, but don’t want to spend hours on end getting through the dense novel, what’s wrong with picking up the graphic novel and learning through images and short blurbs? If you’re interested in super heroes and the supernatural and have seen all the movies and still want to learn more, what’s wrong with reading comic books?

Any way you look at it, you will gain knowledge you not have if you decided not to read. No matter what age you are, no matter what you are reading, reading is better than not reading. It’s all a part of lifelong learning. You be the judge. What kind of reading do you think is substantial?

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