In Writing + illustration

Reading without walls

Reading Without Walls official feature illustration

(‘Reading With Walls’ feature illustration from Gene Leun Yang’s Challenge Resources)

“Reading is a fantastic way to open your minds and hearts to new people, places, and ideas.”
– Gene Luen Yang

Gene Luen Yang is the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and the award-winning author behind the Reading Without Walls Challenge in the US – a challenge to expand your reading horizons.

This challenge is such a great idea when choosing books for yourself or to read to children. Gene encourages us to explore the world through books by choosing to do the following (suggesting that if you really want the gold star to choose a book that does all 3):

  1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you.
  2. Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about.
  3. Read a book in a format that you don’t normally read for fun (a chapter book, a graphic novel, a book in verse or an audiobook).

Learn more about the ‘Reading Without Walls’ challenge here.

I’ve always been drawn to books about people who are different to me, and have always liked reading biographies. For me that’s the appeal of books – that you can immerse yourself in someone else’s world. I recently read the graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi that meets all 3 challenge criteria for me. The next book I hope to read is Gene’s award-winning graphic novel American Born Chinese.

This challenge is something I’ll remember when selecting picture books to read to my children. It’s something to reflect on when I’m writing as well. I love the concept of Reading Without Walls, and wondered what Writing Without Walls might mean? I’d love to ask Gene his interpretation. We often talk in our writing group about writing what you know. Your life, your childhood, your experiences – they all inform who you are, what you care about, what drives you, and what story you have to tell. It’s about being authentic to your own voice. The best books come from there. So I don’t interpret it as I should write from the perspective of a character I know nothing about, on a topic I know nothing about. For me, Writing without walls means being open-minded and inclusive to difference, writing ‘rich’ stories that avoid stereotypes and reflect our shared humanity.


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