Work Title: Bringing Graphic Novels into the Classroom
Work Author(s): Allyson Lyga
Byline: Allyson Lyga
Comic books and graphic novels are an accepted form of storytelling and a source of recreational reading. As noted by other writers in this supplement, public libraries have blossoming graphic novel collections, and recently the graphic adaptation of The 9/11 Report (Hill and Wang, 978-0-8090-5738-2) and Gene Yang's American Born Chinese (First Second, 978-1-59643-152-2) were nominated for National Book Awards. These high-water marks for graphic novels prove that they can be shelved in libraries with regular novels and can be judged against conventional books. Now that graphic novels have seen such acceptance in the book world, it's time to place them where they can have an impact---the American classroom.
Before discussing the growing world of educational graphic novel publishers, we need to explore why graphic novels should be available to students in the classroom. One important way to use graphic novels in the classroom is to recognize the various literacy styles and to use graphic novels to fortify literacy skills. Let's look at three traits of literacy. Each trait is explained along with a connection to graphic novels.
Three Traits of Literacy
Inability to visualize. Based on brain research, about eight percent of students cannot visualize during reading. This number goes across gender lines, as both boys and girls are affected. Realize that this is not a learning disability; it is how the brain is wired, just like how some people have an affinity for math or literature. Thus, if a child is reading a novel, no matter how descriptive the passages are, that child cannot put images into, or form pictures inside, his or her head. The pictures in a graphic novel assist the reader who does not visualize during reading. The graphics support the text and allow the reader to comprehend the meaning of the story. Instead of fighting to create mental pictures, the child can focus on constructing meaning and comprehending the plot of the story.
Reluctant/Avoidance Readers. Many children do not read for pleasure and do not succeed in reading for information or to perform a task. The reasons vary as to why reluctant readers are, well, reluctant to read. Some are below grade level in reading and have poor self-esteem; some have unidentified learning disabilities; others have not been properly taught reading strategies to help them...