More on Graphic Novels

Hi all,

I just wanted point out an article by James Bucky Carter in the November English Journal about graphic novels. Carter examines different ways that these novels can be used in the ELA classroom and suggests many different titles to use. Carter writes

“There is evidence that they are slowly filtering
into many facets of English education and literacy
instruction, changing the materials once used to
reach various student populations, challenging traditional
notions of literacy and competence in literacy
skills, and even challenging student and teacher attitudes
about the sequential art form.” (52)

These are ideas that we have been exploring throughout the semester. I have to say, I was not entire sold on graphic novels, but this weekend I had an awakening experience. I was leaving the gym when I saw a boy reading the graphic novel of A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I asked this boy what else he had read, and he said he just finished Watchmen (Luckily I was familiar with it because I looked at it as a possible text for my unit). He said he liked graphic novels because they were quicker and easier to read. I thought, maybe these novels can reach kids who might not be reading otherwise, and if we use them in the ways that Carter suggests, they could raise critical literacy in our classrooms.




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4 responses to “More on Graphic Novels

  1. sunyprof

    I agree that graphic texts are an important addition to our classrooms. So glad you read the Carter article Allison.

    But I would also suggest that many graphic texts are every bit as complex as non-graphic print texts, some much more so. These are not just books for reluctant or weak readers. Just the opposite. They will challenge our most sophisticated readers.

    Raph can weigh in on this topic as he is writing his essay on American Born Chinese, which was last year the first graphic title nominated for a National Book Award in the YA category.

    Given the importance of expanded literacies with an emphasis on visual literacy, graphic texts need to occupy the book shelves in our classrooms and we need to be just as intentional about teaching students to read them as we are the print texts we are comfortable teaching.

    Fun short (one page) article on using graphic texts.

    And look at this great annotated list. KES

  2. allison

    Oh dear, I did not mean to suggest that only weak readers should read graphic novels!! I see how one might read my blog in that way! I agree that they are a powerful learning tool for everyone!!

  3. traverse02


    I agree with what your student said about graphic novels being quicker to read, but I don’t think that makes them easy at all. When reading a graphic novel, you’re taking in much more information than you might think. The artist can add a lot with subtleties within the frame of the comic. It’s easy when reading a graphic novel to look over some of the pictures just for the sake of reading the actual text, but if you really pay attention, the experience is much more rewarding. A frame in a comic book like the Watchmen can be analyzed just as easily as pages of text from Steinbeck or whomever.

    Watchmen is a prime example, and I’m glad to hear that a student is reading that as it is one of the best comic books of all time (they’re actually in the process of turning it into a film, directed by Zack Snyder of 300 and Dawn of the Dead (the remake) fame. I’m not too thrilled about that. 300 was an alright movie, but it was hardly as good as Frank Miller’s original graphic novel. Unless he follows the path of Robert Rodriguez and what he did with Sin City, I’d say making a film of Watchmen would be a bad idea. But anyways, I digress. Graphic Novels should be a part of the classroom. Not all of them are good to use, but if you stick with authors like Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis, Osamu Tezuka, Jeff Smith, Gene Luen Yang, etc. you’re in good company.

  4. mandygrl101

    Hi guys: this post caught my eye because graphic novels have been all over the place at the NYSEC and NCTE conferences. There are tons of historical graphic novels and many specifically deal with past wars and other such conflicts, which interests me, because I wonder whythis is. However, some of the best graphic novels I have seen this week are those of Shakespeare plays. These are incredibly cool and I actually found myself getting excited about graphic novels, perhaps because I was not a big Shakespeare fan in high school. Back then, the language was difficult and hard to follow, as I imagine it still is for many adolescents, so I always resorted to the movie versions. (Imagine that). However, perhaps if kids know that they can access the content via graphic novels, they might be more inclined to read visually appealing texts, rather than watching the movies. I feel like there is a lot of potential here in terms of creating a text set with the plays that you teach, while using graphic novels, and theatrical productions, among other things. Further, teens seem to view graphic novels as very cool, and if they see that works by Shakespeare, an ancient white poet, are being used in this genre, perhaps we can increase their appreciation of our beloved William!

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