By Stephanie Rosario Rodriguez, Knowledge Manager
Over the last few years, there has been a growing interest in using Graphic Novels in education, particularly for language comprehension. The terms graphic novel and comic books are often used interchangeably but they have their differences. Comic books represent the overall style or sub-genre of literature but are generally shorter in length (20-40 pages) and are part of a periodical, where issues are continued on a regular basis. Graphic Novels can be the length of a typical novel and follow a narrative development where one book contains a begin, middle, and end.
The combination of images and words to help reluctant readers is nothing new, it’s the foundation behind picture books. However, as youth get older, books become endless pages of words, which can become intimidating to a reluctant reader. Coupled with the fact that teens may be embarrassed about reading picture books in their later years, it’s no surprise disengagement occurs.
Graphic Novels cover a broad scope of topics that an age-appropriate one can be found for any demographic.
Graphic Novels cover a broad scope of topics that an age-appropriate one can be found for any demographic. In addition, due to their flexibility, the reader can explore a broad spectrum of topics and representations such as LGBTQ+ Visibility, migrant experiences, global warming, and much more.
When asked about his favorite illustrated works, Kahmal London, Flagship Clubhouse Coordinator says “two of my favorites are Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men series and Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughn.” The X-Men series deals with concepts such as coping with trauma, individuality, self-love, and racism within their society. Pride of Baghdad is based on a true story about a pride of lions that escaped from the Baghdad Zoo during an aerial strike in 2003. This story brings to light the perspective of a pride living with loss and uncertainty.
Even novels without words can foster critical thinking, sequencing, imagination, storytelling, and creativity as youth are relying on their own imagination to create a story.
Even novels without words can foster critical thinking, sequencing, imagination, storytelling, and creativity as youth are relying on their own imagination to create a story. If you’re working with a young child, ask them to tell you the story as they see it. Each time it’ll surely change, offering a blank slate each time the book is picked back up! One of my favorites is Blackout by John Rocco which tells the story of a New York City family during an electrical power outage.
The use of visual elements has been said to attract media-driven youth, help special needs youth understand context and dialogue, and assist readers in learning to recognize facial recognitions, mood changes, and foreshadowing. The ways in which graphic novels attract and engage readers are numerous, but youth don’t need to be merely consumers. There are plenty of online platforms for youth to make their own stories. These are some of my favorites.
Make Your Own Graphic Novel or Comic
MakeBeliefsComix allows creators to make comic panels between two and four panels with 25 characters to choose from. Many youth have already started created comics focusing on the COVID-19 Pandemic in their communities. This is a good start, as anyone can create a comic strip in as little as 10 minutes but for longer story lines, I’d suggest Pixton.
Pixton, is offered in French and Spanish and offers countless backgrounds, characters, expressions, and special effects. Maker are even able to upload their own backgrounds to use in each panel. This allows for a lot more flexibility to develop larger stories. Pixton also supports an online community of educators, which features articles for and by teachers using the comic genre in their curriculum.
Online Resources for Using Graphic Novels in Education
- Social Justice Books: A Teaching for Change Project – Teaching for Change carefully selects the best multicultural and social justice books for children, young adults, and educators.
- Scholastic – A Guide to Using Graphic Novels With Children and Teens (Grades 3-12) – Graphic novels have emerged as a growing segment of book publishing, and have become accepted by librarians and educators as mainstream literature for children and young adults — literature that powerfully motivates kids to read.
- From Superheroes to Syrian Refugees: Teaching Comics and Graphic Novels with Resources from The New York Times
- The Case for Graphic Novels in Education
- A Suite of Strategies for Navigating Graphic Novels: A Dual Coding Approach
Steph’s COVID-19 Must Reads
- New York Stories: An Interactive Graphic Novel from the New York Times
- Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman
- Persepolis: The Story of an Iranian Childhood and Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi
- Puerto Rico Strong: A Comics Anthology Supporting Puerto Rico Disaster Relief by Various Artists
- Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
- March 1, 2 & 3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
As the Knowledge Manager, Stephanie Rosario Rodriguez is the champion of organization-wide knowledge-sharing, developing and managing implementation of institutional knowledge. In addition, she supports innovation and promotes the introduction and integration of new ideas from external thought partners into the Clubhouse community.