Building Literacy with Graphic Novels for Young Children

graphic-novels-rights-clearedDo you have graphic novels in your collections? Do you include them in your picture book collection or do you think graphic novels are for older readers only? Just in time for National Picture Book Month, our reVIEWS+ Collections Editor Dr. Sylvia Vardell suggests that the line between the picture book and the graphic novel is blurring and, furthermore, that in this highly visual culture in which we live, the graphic novel represents another way we can get our students to read.
Subscribers to SLC/reVIEWS+ can read more articles like this by visiting School Library Connection/reVIEWS+.


OK, it’s true confession time. I am not a big fan of graphic novels. There, I said it. Actually, I like LOOKING at graphic novels, I just don’t really enjoy READING them. My eye is not sure where to start, go, move, and follow. And I get impatient with the pictures and want more words. Ridiculous, I know. And those are some of the very reasons that students really ENJOY graphic novels:

#1 Because many adults don’t like them, so graphic novels seem a bit taboo and thus even more inviting.

#2 Because they like looking at graphic novels.

#3 Because they do know how to scan, read, and follow the story.

#4 Because they want their story from the visuals as well as from the text.

#5 Because they don’t want to wade through so many words.

And for many more reasons.

I share this because one of my biggest pet peeves is working with librarians who let their own personal tastes and individual reading preferences get in the way of connecting kids with books THEY like, but we may not like as much. People often refer to our “gatekeeper” status as the people who build library collections and choose which books to purchase and then promote our collections to students. We owe it to them to build the collection that they want and need.

How Graphic Novels Help

I also share this because I see the value in graphic novels from many different perspectives that go well beyond personal preferences. This is not just a trend in publishing, graphic novels offer a new dimension for a literary experience that draws new readers into the fold—and that is powerful. Karen Gavigan and Mindy Tomasevich share some of their basics in their article, “Connecting Comics to Curriculum: Beginning Reader Graphic Novels,” one of our Essential Readings this month. And in her article for School Library Journal, Allyson Lyga (2006) noted, “Graphic novels help all different types of learners. For children who are incapable of visualizing a story, the artwork helps them create context…. and [they] help reluctant readers understand the plot of a story…. And cross gender lines.” As children are developing as readers, the format of the graphic novel helps them use their stronger visual literacy skills in gaining story from pictures. Continue reading “Building Literacy with Graphic Novels for Young Children”

Speed Dating Remix

October 9-16 is Teen Read Week. Here’s an idea from Tish Carpinelli to help your 10th-12th graders find a book they can love.

rich_f8-photo
Image courtesy rich_f8 under Creative Commons license

A Reason to Remix
“My students are really enjoying the books they selected the other day. A few of them are already finished with them!” As media specialists, we certainly love to hear those words from our colleagues after classes come down for book selection. Often, however, traditional booktalks or just allowing classes to freely roam the stacks for books does not result in the majority of students finding a book with which they can really connect.

In “Speed Dating with Books” (LMC, October 2012), I described an activity that has been very successful with my students. After the first few years of these speed dating sessions, I wanted to change things up a bit. I did not want to repeat the same activity for sophomores, juniors, or seniors that I had used with them as freshmen. Also, when the assignment requires nonfiction books, my original setup would not work well. It is impossible to have enough topic variety on one table to satisfy every interest. For these reasons, I devised a “Speed Dating Remix” activity that can be used with either fiction or nonfiction books. The setup for each is slightly different, but the actual “dating” remains the same. And the objective continues to be for the students to leave with a book with which they feel they can have a “committed relationship.” Continue reading “Speed Dating Remix”

School Daze through Pictures and Stories

A quick peek in the SLC archives turned up this back-to-school gem from Carolyn S. Brodie highlighting picture books and related resources.

Subscribers to SLC can read find many more articles with book and activity recommendations at School Library Connection.

This assortment of fifteen school-related picture books, both classic and new, is meant to be enjoyed. These stories will foster connections for students as they are introduced to memorable characters, situations, and storylines in a variety of school settings.

BACK TO SCHOOL

No doubt this will prove to be a year filled with promise, new beginnings, and lots of learning! The following list of great books should get the school year off to a great start.

 

Allard, Harry. Miss Nelson Is Missing! Illus. by James Marshall. Houghton Mifflin, 1977.

When Miss Nelson disappears, her disruptive students in Room 207 are faced with a one-of-a-kind substitute teacher until Miss Nelson returns.

Print out a fun reader’s theater script (http://web.archive.org/web/19991118161638/www.qesn.meq.gouv.qc.ca/schools/bchs/rtheatre/pdffiles/missnelson.PDF). Another script can be found at: http://www.thebestclass.org/uploads/5/6/2/4/56249715/miss_nelson_is_missing.pdf.

A literature guide from the “Learning to Give” site provides before, during, and after questions in relation to the story (http://www.learningtogive.org/resources/miss-nelson-missing-literature-guide). Eight activity ideas are suggested for family involvement, but can be easily adapted for the classroom or library.

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Journey to Fantastic Worlds in these Magical Stories

With the return of Harry Potter to bookshelves everywhere, the world is starting to feel just a bit more magical again. However, the story of The Boy Who Lived is not the only one to be told! Check out these great titles recommended by SLC reviewers that take readers on journeys through worlds filled with magic and adventure.

We’re excited to include an exclusive sneak preview of this first title that will appear in our upcoming August/September issue. Subscribers can always find reviews of other great titles like this at reVIEWS+

Auxier, Jonathan
Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard
2016. 464pp. $18.95 hc. Amulet Books/Abrams. 9781419717475. Grades 4-8

The second Peter Nimble adventure introduces Sophie Quire, a feisty young bookmender who expertly and lovingly restores the pages, covers, and spines of many treasured tales. Storybooks are on the verge banishment in the city of Bustleburgh, and because she cannot imagine a world without stories, Sophie rescues a handful of books from their Pyre Day fate. Just as Sophie is apprehended by the nasty Inquisitor Prigg, Peter Nimble and his companion Sir Tode come to her rescue. Peter presents Sophie with the Book of Who, one of the Four Questions. When complete, this set of books protects stories and holds the world’s magic. Sophie learns she is the last storyguard, entrusted with finding the books of What, Where, and When, stopping Pyre Day, and saving her world. Magical obstacles like quickbramble and kettle bogs can’t stop Sophie from completing her quest, for she is supported by an odd yet impressive cast of characters and creatures—including a talking silver tigress and an old tattooed scrivener. Auxier has created an electrifying and extraordinary story. Middle grade readers will likely wish to reread to appreciate the wonder that is this book. Aimee Haslam, Graduate Student, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia
Highly Recommended

 

Black, Holly & Cassandra Clare
The Iron Trial
2014. 304pp. $17.99 hc. Scholastic, Inc. 9780545522250. Grade 3 & Up

If your students were fans of the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books, they will like this first book in the Magisterium series. Callum has always known about magic and his family’s abilities. He is about to go to the Iron Trial to test and see if he will be chosen to train at the Magisterium. Because of a family tragedy, Callum’s dad does not want him to qualify and has taught Callum to fear for his life if required to attend. Callum does his best to fail, but he is still picked. As the novel progresses, Callum becomes a reluctant hero like Harry and Percy, especially with his male and female companions. Callum and the reader both begin to realize that something is just not right. Can he and his friends survive their first year? This book is perfect for fantasy and adventure lovers. Neely Swygert, Information Technology Specialist/Librarian, Gadsden (South Carolina) Elementary
Recommended

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Great Titles for National GLBT Book Month

Here at SLC we are always proud to feature titles that promote tolerance and diversity in all library collections. In honor of National GLBT Book Month check out this list of titles recommended by our reviewers.

076367382XThrash, Maggie
Honor Girl
2015. 272pp. $19.99 hc. Candlewick Press. 978-0-7636-7382-6. Grades 9-12

Thrash’s graphic memoir presents a love story with which every reader will be able to identify. Told primarily through flashback, Maggie recalls one particular summer she spent at Camp Bellflower, Kentucky when she was 15. After a brief encounter with a counselor, Maggie’s emotions and thoughts become confused; she contemplates her feelings, sexuality, and actions in a way with which most teenagers will empathize. Thrash’s plot and dialogue flow easily, keeping the reader intrigued. Her rough outlines, especially for people’s faces, will hopefully prove more interesting in the final full color illustrations. Honor Girl will be a page-turner leaving readers with many unresolved questions, a scenario familiar to LGBT and straight teens alike. Carrie Randall, Maine-Endwell Central School District, New York
Recommended

 

SimonAlbertalli, Becky
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
2015. 320pp. $17.99 hc. Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins). 978-0-06-234867-8. Grades 9-12

Simon hasn’t told anyone he’s gay except for Blue, someone he knows only through emails. When Simon forgets to logout of his secret email account on a school computer, Martin Addison, the class goofball, happens upon the account. Martin blackmails Simon into getting Abby, one of Simon’s best friends, to hang out with him. When Abby doesn’t return Martin’s affections, Simon’s coming out happens more publicly than he wished. The story is told in alternating chapters of Simon’s first-person narrative and his emails with Blue. It is a charming story of coming out, falling in love, and the many changes that happen within families and between friends. Personable, funny, and insightful, Simon is a character that readers can connect with and root for. The novel is utterly delightful and a valuable addition for any high school or public library. Stacy Holbrook, School Librarian, Middlebury (Vermont) Union High School [Editor’s Note: Available in e-book format.]
Highly Recommended

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Get Surreal! Celebrating the Imagination of Salvador Dalí

The paintings of Salvador Dalí grant viewers glimpses into fantastic, surreal locations bound only by the imagination. To celebrate the birthday of the famous surrealist, check out this collection of picture books all about the power of imagination and the potential for even the youngest artists to shape their very own fantastic worlds—and maybe even influence the real one while they’re at it!

 

Campoy, Isabel F. & Theresa Howell
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood
Illustrated by Rafael López. 2016. 32pp. $16.99 hc. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 9780544357693. Grades K-2

Looking around her neighborhood, young Mira sees a dull urban setting devoid of color. Beginning with small paintings, she attempts to brighten the gloomy landscape with little success. A chance encounter with a muralist and his magical paintbrush empowers Mira and her neighbors to create a beautiful community pulsating with colorful murals, rhythmic poems, and vibrant songs. Inspired by the work of Rafael and Candice López on the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California, this joyful ode to the power of community engagement encourages budding artists to use their talent to make a difference in their world. The dazzling illustrations invite readers to explore Mira’s multicultural community and discover the transformative nature of art. Pair this with Patricia Markun’s The Little Painter of Sabana Grande, George Ancona’s Murals: Walls That Sing, and Peter Reynolds’ Sky Color for further explorations into creative Latino muralists and street artists. Jamie Campbell Naidoo, Associate Professor, University of Alabama School of Library and Information Studies, Tuscaloosa, Alabama [Editor’s Note: Available in e-book format.]
Highly Recommended

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Great Reads for Earth Day

Need some great nonfiction titles for Earth Day? Check out these recommended Nature & Environment titles from the April issue of School Library Connection.

Amazing Biomes: GrasslandsAmazing Biomes
Deserts.  9781781212417
Grasslands. 9781781212424
Oceans.  9781781212431
Polar Lands.  9781781212455
Rivers and Lakes.  9781781212448
Tropical Rain Forests.  9781781212462
2015. 32pp. ea. $31.95 ea. hc. Black Rabbit Books. Grades 3-5

Each title in this series contains a brief overview of its specified biome. All follow the same format including a world map, Climate and Zones, Animals, People, Future, a Quiz, and a Fact File. Attractive stock photos span most pages, and backgrounds complement each book’s theme. Text features include captions, headings, bold print, and books for further research. Some discrepancies regarding Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion were found in identical information across volumes. An enjoyable series for casual research or browsing despite a few flaws. Glossary. Table of Contents. Websites. Index.— Leticia Kalweit, School Library Media Specialist, Cobbles Elementary School, Penfield, New York
Recommended

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From the Archives: Speed Dating with Books!

Here’s a fun idea from Tish Carpinelli for getting high school students to try reading something new.

“Oooh, book speed dating, I remember that. It was fun!” It made me smile to hear a senior boy pass by and say those words as I was setting nullup the decorations for a group of freshmen. It’s always great to have students think a program is fun, but it’s an added bonus when that program gets books into their hands that they really enjoy and actually finish. For our high school, speed dating with books is an effective approach to pairing up students with “the perfect match” of a book!

WHEN BOOKTALKS AREN’T THE ANSWER

When students used to come to the media center with their English classes to select a book for an outside reading, I would usually give booktalks. If I nullshared a dozen books and half of them were actually checked out, I was happy. For the rest of the period, students would browse the stacks in search of a book, find one quickly, and then sit down and chat with their friends until the bell rang. They often didn’t read a word of the book they checked out before they left! As the deadline for their projects approached, some of them returned their original choices to exchange for another book because the one they had was “boring.” Sadly, some students never even completed the assignment because they did not have a book that appealed to them.

GETTING “COMMITTED” TO A BOOK!

I first heard about book speed dating on the LM_Net listserv and decided to give it a try. After reading how other media specialists set up their programs, I came up with a plan that works well in my library. With some modifications, I have used this basic procedure with all grade levels, from freshmen to seniors, from resource classes to advanced placement students. In addition to being fun, book speed dating gives the students a chance to get to know a book before forming a “committed relationship” with it. They must read the cover, front and back flaps, and begin reading the book during the dating period. This results in their making an informed choice before they check out the book, and the book they choose will be one they enjoy reading. Continue reading “From the Archives: Speed Dating with Books!”

From the Archives: Celebrating the Ladies

By Kay Weisman

In North America, females outnumber males by about three percent, but books highlighting women’s contributions are not always so numerous. Share the following clustered titles with students to help them appreciate the accomplishments of women.

SCIENTISTS
Butzer, Anna. Maria Mitchell. Great Women in History series. Capstone, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-4914-0539-0; 24p., Gr. K-2.
This brief introduction to America’s first female astronomer explains how her interest in the stars developed and cites her professional accomplishments. Included are period photos, a timeline, and appended back matter.

Fertig, Dennis. Sylvia Earle: Ocean Explorer. Women in Conservation series. Heinemann, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-4846-0470-0; 48p., Gr. 3-6.
Fertig discusses Earle’s early inspirations and details her many undersea achievements. Full-color photos, diagrams, and generous back matter supplement this very readable text. Other series titles include Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall, and Rachel Carson.

Polacco, Patricia. Clara and Davie: The True Story of Young Clara Barton. Scholastic, 2014. ISBN: 978-0-545-35477-6; 40p., Gr. 2-4.
Polacco recounts an episode from American Red Cross founder Barton’s childhood detailing how older brother Davie protected, encouraged, and mentored her. Later, when Davie is hurt in a fall, Clara becomes his nurse, putting her healing powers to work.

Stone, Tanya Lee. Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell. Illus. by Marjorie Priceman. Holt, 2013. ISBN: 978-0-8050-9048-2; 40p., Gr. K-2.
In the 1830s girls were encouraged to become wives and mothers. Adventurous Elizabeth Blackwell defied that expectation, becoming America’s first female doctor despite first being turned down by twenty-eight medical schools. An author’s note and source list append this inspiring biography.

CONNECT & INVESTIGATE:
Both Polacco and Stone employ narrative frameworks. Discuss the portions of Barton and Blackwell’s lives covered by these texts. Where is other information placed? How do the illustrations contribute to these biographies? Butzer and Fertig apply a more traditional chronological approach to their works on Mitchell and Earle. Where is additional information placed in these texts? What information is conveyed in illustrations and graphics? (RI: K-6.1; RI: 1-6.5; RI: K-6.7)

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