By Jeff Smith, best-selling author of the graphic album series BONE, advocate for Banned Books Week This year, I was surprised to learn that my cartoon novel series BONE was the tenth most banned and challenged book of 2013. The characters in BONE have been a part of me ever since I was a kid, and I’m proud that they’ve become a part of the lives of young people all over the world. But there are some folks who don’t like it, and want it taken out of schools and libraries. People have been trying to ban books for as long as books have existed, and attacks on comics are nothing new, of course. With their unique way of combining words and images, comics have long been misunderstood, and an easy target for the people who glimpse a panel or a page out of context and jump to the wrong conclusion. Through my work on the board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, I’ve seen how comics still suffer under the mistaken notion that they must be simple, juvenile, and far from being an art form, consider them low-value speech. When I was young, some thought that they caused illiteracy. Even as a kid, I knew that was silly. Comics were a hugely positive influence on my childhood. I learned to read because of Peanuts by Charles Schulz. I collected comic books with my friends, and we would pick our favorite artists and try to draw like them. The stories in those little panels ignited my imagination! It wasn’t just the unforgettable adventures and characters, it was the way you read them! You read it left to right, top to bottom just like any other book, but there was so much more going on! Your eyes leap across the space between the panels, creating movement in your mind as you flow across the page. I quickly realized that reading a comic didn’t mean just the words in the balloons, because a great deal of story information is contained in the image, and both need to be processed simultaneously. I couldn’t get enough. I used to make homemade comics with early versions of the Bone characters. Later on in college, my interest in books, as well as a love of movies, art and symbolism, led me to start interweaving more literary structures into my comics. When I started BONE as a comic book, I became part of a wave of cartoonists that wanted to do more with the medium. Since then, there has been a renaissance. Comics and graphic novels, as they are sometimes known, are now part of the literary scene, awarded prizes, reviewed by critics, filling the shelves of libraries and bookstores, and being taught in schools. The worst part about my book being banned is that I hate to think of what would have happened if those Peanuts books that inspired me to become a cartoonist were taken away from me when I was a kid. I’m so grateful to have been inspired by those comics, and I’m so very lucky that I’ve had the chance to inspire other young people to try making comics of their own too. Reading lets our imagination grow, and helps us find the paths that will inspire us for the rest of our lives. That kind of inspiration should never be taken away. But when a book is banned, that’s exactly what happens. Jeff Smith is the New York Times Best Selling author of the graphic album series BONE that has sold millions of copies around the world. In 2004, BONE was included in Time Magazine’s Top 10 Greatest Graphic Novels of All Time. His other works include RASL, an adult thriller, and the 2,000,000 year old story of the first human to leave Africa, TUKI: SAVE the HUMANS which can be read on-line for free at his website, boneville.com. Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.