Redefining Reading: Comics in the Classroom

If you haven’t already heard, graphic novels and comics are gaining popularity with librarians as their value in promoting reading fluency, especially among beginning readers, reluctant readers, and ELL students, becomes more apparent. In this piece from our archives, Deborah B. Ford shares some ideas on using graphic works in your library or classroom.

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The Return of the Saturday Matinee!

Recently we decided to do Saturday Matinees @ the IMC, a teacher’s lending library for San Diego Unified School District staff. These one-hour classes for teachers focus on the resources available to them. With Comic-Con just around the corner, I decided to do “Comics in the Classroom”

Literature? Comics? Yes, comics. When was the last time you looked at a comic without reading? Don’t you have to determine sequence of events, character, plot, and resolution? And don’t forget that these panels have a beginning, middle, and end in as few as three squares. Using Follett Destiny as a search tool, I found a website, professorgarfield.org, that allows you to sort the panels into correct sequence, and then you have to answer questions about them. It is not as easy as you might think!

Comics in the Curriculum

Teachers can use comic books and graphic novels (fiction and nonfiction) to teach curriculum and standards. Publishers see the interest that students have in graphic novels. Some companies have published graphic novels of the classics. These versions make it easier for second language learners or students reading below grade level to grasp the storyline, as well as give them some background for reading the original. Stone Arch books and Capstone Press have created graphic libraries of content related curriculum. Now students can read what they want and learn something while doing it. As with any literature, teachers and librarians will want to pre-read before using graphic material with students. Continue reading “Redefining Reading: Comics in the Classroom”

Shaping a Collection: Graphic Novels and the Needs of English Language Learners

Is your school a “melting pot” of diversity? Does your collection reflect the make-up of your student body? In this article from our April online issue,  Alicia Abdul and Kristen Majkut discuss the importance of having a diverse collection and why you should include graphic novels.

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Librarians should focus on building collections that reflect their communities. For our school in Albany, New York, that community is a hub for incoming refugees from all over the world, chiefly because of the presence of an U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) field office. USCRI helps displaced families make the transition to the United States by providing a wide range of services, including language classes, housing assistance, employment opportunities, and immigration services. As librarians, we can support students’ English language acquisition and literacy development through purposeful collection development and library services, including, as we have found, providing and sharing graphic novels.

Needs of ENL Students

English as a New Language (ENL) students have unique circumstances physically, emotionally, and academically. Our students from warmer climates arrive wearing sandals and without winter coats, unprepared for Northeast winters. In addition to language barriers, there are cultural differences regarding eye contact, shaking hands, greetings, clothing, gestures, religion, and even food traditions. This makes it crucial for educators to provide opportunities for personal engagement.

Academically, some incoming students have not learned to read in their native languages and are now encountering a new alphabet with new letters, words, and sounds for the first time. Some students read their native language from right to left. Some are coming from areas of conflict and their education has been interrupted for several years. Some school-age children have never attended any type of formal schooling. This influx of students has required that our district consider different measures to support these students and their families as they transition to life in the United States. Continue reading “Shaping a Collection: Graphic Novels and the Needs of English Language Learners”

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.
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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”