Graphic novels are the only genre of books that has experienced a boost in sales and they currently bring in over $1 billion annually. The genre was initially not taken seriously until critically acclaimed books such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus (1991) and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen (1987). The 2000s ushered in a bunch of new classics and award-winning titles like Marjane Satropis’s Persepolis (2000), Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home (2006), and Raina Telgemier’s Smile (2010). Graphic novels are now part of every student’s required reading list and have been a great way to get a younger audience engaged in reading.
With over 70 years of experience in ensuring students with learning differences gain access to the books that students need and want to read, Learning Ally has taken up the challenge of providing graphic novels via an audio format. Dave Kozemchak, Audiobook Production Director at Learning Ally, is in the know of all that is popular in the literary world. He looked at the latest and greatest audiobooks for K-12 students and knew that Graphic Novels were wildly popular. In an effort to ensure that Learning Ally is providing the most relevant content for our students, he worked with our Solutions, Technology, Audio Production, and Volunteer teams to find a way to produce Graphic Novels for all of our student members. Our solutions team quickly responded to the needs of our students by upgrading our Learning Ally’s Link App Reading tool to allow functionality for our students to fully access our graphic novel audio books.
Abigail Shaw, former College Success Program mentor and now full-time Learning Ally employee, gave us insight into the world of our blind and visually impaired students. Abigail is visually impaired and an audio production expert, providing Learning Ally with the perfect combination of talents to produce top quality audiobooks for students who struggle to read print. Abigail has a of knowledge in the area of Accessible Media and knew ways that other media groups provide access to content for the blind and visually impaired. Netflix provides a function that consumers can enable allowing for audio descriptions of moving media for individuals who cannot see. For example, in a scene when someone is leaving a room, Netflix Audio description functionality will quietly describe the non-verbal elements of a scene, such as “character x leaves the room”. Non-verbal cues are big in communicating content and something sighted people can take for granted. We are fortunate that Abigail can provide us with that insight and help Learning Ally develop the best tools possible to support students who cannot read print!
To produce graphic novels, we needed 3 components to properly execute the production of audio books for graphic novels; (1) Book, with our first endeavor being El Deafo (2) Instructional text narrators to record visual descriptions, and (3) audio book narrators to record the text for the books.