Lessons Learned: Graphic Novels

I’ve got to tell you, I really enjoyed our recent conversation on the role that graphic novels can/should play in the lives of middle grades students.

If you haven’t had time to poke through the comments, I really think you should.  While it will take you some time, there’s some really bright thinking going on there.


Here are some lessons that I think I learned:

ANY genre that engages middle grades readers is a good genre.  Kevin Hodgson—a mind that I respect times about 50 and a fellow sixth grade teacher wrote:

I know that the age I teach (sixth grade) is the age we often lose readers, and the more engaged I can keep them, the better.

That resonated with me simply because it’s true.  If kids haven’t embraced reading by the time that they leave middle school, they’re facing an uphill battle in life.

And no matter what I think about the level of graphic novels, many struggling readers embrace them.

That’s a point I made in my original post, too—but hearing it from others serves as a valuable reminder that if graphic novels hook even one struggling reader, they have a place on my bookshelf.


Just like iPads, graphic novels AREN’T magical tools.  One of the things that blows my mind is the blind faith that many people seem to put in the ability of graphic novels to save struggling readers.

My favorite comment of this entire conversation came in my email inbox from a teacher who described graphic novels as a “fanciful dance” that:

  1. Encouraged visual literacy skills.
  2. Taught students to interpret and analyze at a deep and meaningful level.
  3. Introduced students to video production skills.
  4. Engaged readers in critical self-analysis.

Listen to those words, y’all:  encouraged, taught, introduced and engaged.  Books don’t do those things. 

Teachers do.

We’ve got to stop believing that ANY tool—whether they are books or the digital gadgets that we like to slather our teacher-love all over—can singlehandedly save our students.

In the hands of a well-trained classroom teacher, I wouldn’t doubt that graphic novels are a “fanciful dance.” 

But how many teachers are REALLY teaching students critically with graphic novels?


I need some SERIOUS professional development in the area of visual literacy.  Over and over again in graphic novel conversations, educators throw the “teaching visual literacy” trump card on the table.

But as we mentally wrestled our way through this conversation, I realized that I don’t even know what “teaching visual literacy” means—and I haven’t systematically taught my students anything about visual literacy ever.

Stew in that for a minute, would you?

I’m a pretty savvy guy.  I’m constantly reading about middle grades instructional practices.  I’m good with language arts skills.  I’m good with technology skills.

And if you asked me to tell you exactly what “teaching visual literacy” looks like in action, I couldn’t really do it.

One thing that I DO know is that “teaching visual literacy” DOESN’T mean giving kids a pile of graphic novels and then winding them up and letting them go.

Yet that’s an assumption that many educators seem to make—and it’s as naïve as saying that giving a kid a computer means “teaching 21st century skills.”

I’ll completely agree that visual literacy is an increasingly important skill in today’s world.  Better yet, I regularly teach students the skills of visual persuasion.

I’ll even go as far as to agree that graphic novels might be a terrific tool for teaching visual literacy.

But until we do a better job making sure that teachers know exactly what “teaching visual literacy” means, nothing—not even graphic novels—are worth our time and energy.



Any of this make sense?  What lessons did you learn during the course of our conversation on graphic novels? 


PS: For those interested, I just ordered the complete set of Maus and Persepolis books.  While they don’t look appropriate for middle graders, I’ll give ‘em a whirl based on your recommendations.

Maybe they’ll reduce my canon-snobbery!

(Love the term, Clix!!)

24 thoughts on “Lessons Learned: Graphic Novels

  1. kamagra

    The problem is that ‘graphic novel’ just came to mean ‘expensive comic book’ and so what you’d get is people like DC Comics or Marvel Comics because ‘graphic novels’ were getting some attention.

  2. Cassie Burris

    I feel rather late on this conversation…But I am a recent High school graduate. I was one of those students who would walk in with graphic novels under her arm. (I guess I should make a distinction now, I read MANGA) I read piles of those starting in middle school and still do. And guess what? I read other books. And no, not Twilight. I read Dracula and Emma….and some of your other classics. Of my own free will.
    I have found an amazing tool through my love of manga. Graphic novel versions of Shakespeare’s plays. I read them along with the play. They kept the language of the play, but seeing the pictures really helped me understand it. (I only used these when we did not watch the play or movie version)
    Some manga…(I say manga because I believe the Japanese are better at graphic novels than American and I dislike the setup of American comics) are very deep and are filled with thought provoking concepts. For the older kids, Death Note shows the struggle between right and wrong and is chalk full of symbolism. Code Geass shows the struggle between how to change the world. Should people have free will or choice?
    For the younger kids Naruto is great. It shows how friendship and bonds can help change a person and just how being an optimist can change you. It also tells you to never give up.
    Books can be filled with poor choices as well. If given the choice a girl would choose a sappy romance novel with no substance (Twilight) or Harry Potter (which is higher than Twilight).
    We should just be glad kids are reading at all. If we want them to read “classics”…then just assign them. That is what my teachers did and I found I love Jane Austen’s books.
    So…please accept graphic novels. Though…manga is better.<3

  3. Susan

    Not to replace the items on your list but to add to them, don’t forget:
    Useful = being able to figure out what the document says the monthly payment is when signing for a student loan or an off-campus apartment rental.

  4. KBorden

    Mr. Ferriter:
    Useful = Student reads graphic novel and McCloud and is able to produce a well developed analysis, critique and/or interpretation of a favorite.
    Useful = Student takes a given piece of literature and adapts it to graphical format as a project striving to meet McCloud type goals.
    Useful=Student explains why graphical novel appealing, teacher responds showing political cartoons over the ages and engages in discussion of the power of visual components to communicate ideas.
    Remember Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Diary of a Whimpy Kid… ? These too often wind up being self selected reading. That they are something the reader chooses to do with his/her time is a hopeful sign given the competition of Wii, Playstation, MP3… However, what they need from us to encouragement to go further and sometimes to diligently engage even that which they might not self select.
    I like my anime drawing, Dickens and Wilde reading 13 year old and she likes being able to do both well. What I remember is she is 13, and will enjoy all things 13, but I am here to help her someday be an adult. I take an interest in where she is, a genuine one. I also try to take her where she can go.
    If ever we can only read one or the other, I will err on the side of aiming higher because someday I may not be there to regret not having given her the chance. Cheers Bill!

  5. Bill Ferriter

    Shane wrote:
    One last thing sir, if you read my post carefully instead of with anger that I dare to question you, you will see that I greatly attribute Dr. Seuss and trips to the library as reasons for my elevated reading level.
    Your initial comment ended with this statement:
    You are coming across as very pompous and honestly sir as quite unwilling to actually use the most important tool my greatest teachers had…their sense of hearing.
    Are you really surprised that I’ve responded to you with anger?
    After all, it doesn’t take a bunch of intuition or perception to figure out that when you toss insults around, people will be rubbed the wrong way.
    What’s even better is that your statement is patently false.
    Check out the comment strands on both of these posts. I’ve interacted and reflected for three straight days.
    Now, if “hearing” means I’m going to agree with your position, then you’re right: I’m not hearing.
    But if “hearing” means that I’m taking into consideration the positions of others and then working to justify it against what I know about teaching and learning, then I’d argue that I’m doing more “hearing” than you are in this thread.
    I’m done responding to you.
    PS: I even find the choice of the word “hearing” interesting. It’s a rather passive word, don’t you think?
    It implies that expertise lies outside of the individual and that it must simply be absorbed without question.
    Wouldn’t having teachers who “listened critically” be more productive? Or teachers who “proactively questioned?”

  6. Shane Gerlach

    One last thing sir, if you read my post carefully instead of with anger that I dare to question you, you will see that I greatly attribute Dr. Seuss and trips to the library as reasons for my elevated reading level.
    I also ADD in comics as a reason for my advanced reading level.
    You, in your quest to dismiss my argument, skip over the part where I talk about the library and early reading of the Seuss stories and focus on the comic book part.
    Why sir can you not accept that perhaps in fact comics do help people learn to read and comprehend?
    Why do you assume that every student needs a teacher to “make” them read?
    I am just astonished at your angry response to my post. What did I set off in you?

  7. Shane Gerlach

    Sir I do not advocate the use of “just” graphic novels. Please find where I say that and I will apologize profusely.
    I do not expect every child to have the reading level that I do, but I do not expect teachers to dismiss a genre because they do not find it palatable.
    I Believe, and I may be wrong, that you simply will not be swayed on this topic regardless.
    Maus won the Pulitzer Prize. It is used as a teaching tool throughout the country, yet to you it is simplistic, non stimulating and unimaginative. I do not believe there is any chance that reading the complete set will change that.
    I could point you to Alex Ross and his lifelike painting style for art reference but I would be told that some teachers consider graffiti art.
    You have a closed mind, in my view, when it comes to the sequential form of storytelling.
    I used the Autobiographical Graphic Novel “Blankets” with the youth group I run. All troubled kids. I sent home copies with them and asked them to give it a try. The next session we started reading and talking about the authors experiences and their own. What an amazing opening into these kids lives. Should I have NOT done that?
    I guess, sir, our beliefs are going to differ. I am of the belief that you should use any means necessary to reach your students, you do not.

  8. Deanna Harris

    A book you may wish to read/use: Teaching Visual Literacy: Using Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Anime, Cartoons, and More to Develop Comprehension and Thinking Skills by Nancy Frey

  9. Amy C.

    Fascinating conversation both here and in the previous post. I’m glad to have read it, and glad to see that you’re willing to give some serious time and thought, and a real chance, to graphic novels and their place in your classroom. It sounds like you’ve got material for some exciting conversations with your students!
    But what I find most interesting in these posts is your apparent view of the teacher’s role in the process. You seem to put a lot of weight on the teacher as the interpreter for the students. (Please correct me if I’m misreading you.)
    I couldn’t agree with you more when you said, “We’ve got to stop believing that ANY tool . . . can singlehandedly save our students.” But it seems to me that the teacher is one of the tools. Granted, sometimes he’s a lifeline, but sometimes he’s just not all that essential . . . a nice resource maybe, but not the key to all understanding.
    All needs must be met, but not all needs must be met by the teacher. Students can meet some (often many) needs on their own using the other tools at their disposal, tools that they often understand far better than any of their teachers ever will. And thank goodness, I say.

  10. Bill Ferriter

    “A Facebook User” also wrote:
    I came into kindergarten reading the Dr. Suess books. Not having them read to me, but reading them. I had no pre-school. A teacher did not have to teach me how to read.
    By 4th grade I was reading at a college level mainly I believe because of my love of comic books and the fact that I looked up words they used, I learned to understand subjects in context. I took the time to digest not only the 4 color images but the text.
    So let me ask you one simple question, Shane:
    Do you think these early emergent reading behaviors and successes are demonstrated by every child?
    One of the themes I hear over and over again from teachers who are graphic novel lovers is, “I read comic books and today I’m a great reader.”
    Honestly, that’s a foolish statement because it implies—in your case—that exposure to Dr. Seuss (and yes, you did spell it wrong in your comment) is the only reason that you learned to read at an early age.
    You discount any other factor—-exposure to books in the home, an above average ability with reading, parents who valued education, trips to the library—and attribute all of your success to a comic book.
    What’s worse, you assume that if EVERY child has access to comic books and graphic novels—even without any instruction from teachers at all—that they will make the same intellectual strides regardless of who they are as readers.
    Finally, your comment about me not “hearing” is not only offensive, but it is an example of where you HAVEN’T demonstrated the reading prowess you claim to have.
    I’ve read and responded and reacted and interacted with almost every one of the comments in this strand.
    I’ve even purchased and am critically reading my way through the very graphic novels that all y’all fans say represent the best of the genre in an attempt to be convinced that you are on to something that I’ve missed.
    If that’s not evidence of “hearing,” then I don’t know what is.
    Do you think it is possible that YOU are the one with the blinders on, sir?
    Do you think it’s possible that you’re letting your own narrow experiences shape your opinions of what exactly graphic novels are capable of?

  11. Bill Ferriter

    “Facebook User” wrote:
    It would seem sir that a diverse cross section of your teaching peers greatly disagree with your assessment.
    You know, Facebook User, I don’t really care how many people you line up here simply because teaching and teachers have a long history of jumping on bandwagons and embracing fads.
    In the end, the job of any educator is to look critically at instructional practices before embracing them—-and that’s something I’m not sure many people are doing with graphic novels.
    Case in point: I’m in the middle of reading Maus right now.
    It was held up as an example of the best of the genre by many people in this strand.
    And at least so far, I’m not impressed. The text is simplistic—something that didn’t surprise me considering the limits that speech bubbles place on writing.
    What surprised me, however, is the pictures. They’re equally simplistic—and I find it hard to believe that anyone could argue that kids are doing complex interpretation from them.
    Now, I’m not done with the books yet—I have the complete set—so maybe they get better.
    But if it doesn’t, I’m even less convinced that graphic novels are a genre worth pursuing.
    PS: I’m willing to bet that I can find a list of people who support ANY instructional practice—-including reading from textbooks and/or lecturing for hours on end.
    That’s not evidence that those practices are worthwhile.

  12. A Facebook User

    It would seem sir that a diverse cross section of your teaching peers greatly disagree with your assessment.

  13. A Facebook User

    I came into kindergarten reading the Dr. Suess books. Not having them read to me, but reading them. I had no pre-school. A teacher did not have to teach me how to read.
    By 4th grade I was reading at a college level mainly I believe because of my love of comic books and the fact that I looked up words they used, I learned to understand subjects in context. I took the time to digest not only the 4 color images but the text.
    On Saturdays I was able to come into town with my parents until my mom was off work at about 1:00 pm. I would buy my weekly comics at the drug store and pack them away for home and then go to the community library which opened at 9am. I would read 1-2 books and check out my allowed 5 for the week. No teacher made me do this.
    To even imply you need a teacher to develop the skill set is to short sell the accomplishments of many children and take a very narrow viewpoint, which sadly I am sensing is a theme with you (I saw your snarky “if this is the best the genre has to offer…” comment about Maus on the previous thread)
    Why do the books have to appeal to you sir? Why are you not allowing yourself to see graphic novels as a teaching tool.
    I personally am not a fan of O’ Henry. That doesn’t mean I don’t see the merit of his stories or the use of them in teaching.
    I guess I am having a very hard time seeing how having such a closed mind on this is of any benefit to a teacher. Aren’t you there for the children’s sake, not to fuel your own perceptions?
    You are coming across as very pompous and honestly sir as quite unwilling to actually use the most important tool my greatest teachers had…their sense of hearing.
    Best to you.

  14. Melissa Wiley

    “Listen to those words, y’all: encouraged, taught, introduced and engaged. Books don’t do those things.
    Teachers do.”
    Teachers *may* do those things, but books certainly can and do “encourage, teach, introduce, and engage.” I’m sure you could find examples in your own life, both as a kid and an adult, when you learned something from a book without the intercession of a teacher. I can certainly point to many examples in my own life and my kids’ lives.
    Here’s one: I bought a book on weaving and learned to weave by following the instructions in the book. I made hand towels and scarves without ever speaking to a weaving teacher or expert. The book taught me how.
    I have certainly been “engaged” by hundreds upon hundreds of books.
    A quick list of topics to which I was “introduced” by a book would include beekeeping, westward expansion, political strife in Burma, candymaking, English gardening, Greek mythology, the Salem witch trials, and–this list could go on for days! I’m sure your own list would be a mile long. 🙂
    Raina Telgemeier’s excellent middle-grade graphic novel, SMILE, has proved a source of great encouragement to my 12yo daughter as she copes with orthodontic work. SMILE, incidentally, is an example of a smart, literary graphic novel that engages readers and gets them excited about reading, sending them hunting for more great books.
    Another of my children made a huge leap in reading fluency and comprehension at age six when she jumped from the Bob books (beginning reader series) to Tintin comics. Her older sisters were Tintin fans, and the 6yo would pore over the pictures and puzzle out the words, wanting to read just like the big girls. The art is what drew her in, but she desperately wanted to know what was going on in those word balloons. The vocabulary, as is often the case in graphic novels and comics, was quite sophisticated. The stories introduced her (to borrow your word) to countries and cultures all over the world. At the time, I was reading aloud to her from various children’s novels, but she read Tintin by herself, asking for help only occasionally. That child is now 10 years old and an avid reader–of prose and comics. Her favorite authors are Roald Dahl, Emily Rodda, and Brian Jacques–all prose novelists.
    I know this is but one anecdotal example of a kid whose door to reading was a comic book. I have heard many, many similar stories. At the recent San Diego Comic-Con, I attended a panel on Comics in the Library in which four public librarians talked about (among other things) the ways they see kids reading and learning from comics. I was particularly struck by a comment from one of the panelists, who said he read comics almost exclusively as a kid–and went on to major in English, get his MLS, and become a librarian.
    I’m glad you’re reassessing your thoughts on graphic novels–the Jersey Shore comparison was seriously off base–but it seems like you’re caught on the notion that books require teachers as intermediaries, and that too seems off base and contrary to the experience of, well, millions of kids and adults who have learned incredible things alone with a book.

  15. Bill Ferriter

    Interesting take, James.
    If getting my head out of my ____ means that you believe Ive decided that graphic novels are the silver bullet that education has been looking for, I think you read my post the wrong way.
    If anything, Im as skeptical about graphic novels today as Ive ever been—-primarily because I think that there are few educators who really know how to use them meaningfully even though there are TONS of educators who believe they do.
    Without professional development, I think schools are wasting their money completely on graphic novels—-just like they often waste their money on tech tools that they believe will make a difference all on their own.
    The only real shift in my thinking has been that I do believe that graphic novels CAN play a meaningful role in teaching and learning—as long as teachers have the time, tools and training to make it happen.
    Sadly, thats not the case in the vast majority of schools or for the vast majority of teachers.
    Any of this make sense,

  16. Susan

    “Glad to see you got your head out of your… well, you know. ;)”
    Being concerned about “How intimidating must it be for students who spend all of their free reading time in image-heavy graphic novels to crack open their textbooks in my science class and try to make meaning out of the sea of words that they are confronted with?” isn’t having one’s head up one’s ass in the first place. 😀
    “this is actually an issue for some people who don’t have enough functional literacy..”
    Interesting. Would you like to *clarify* how “visual literacy” helps prepare struggling students for the following tasks? 🙂
    * locating the expiration date on a driver’s license
    * totaling a bank deposit slip
    * signing their names
    * locating an intersection on a street map
    * understanding an appliance warranty
    * totaling the costs from an order
    * writing a letter explaining an error on a credit card bill
    * using a bus schedule
    * using a calculator to determine a 10 percent discount
    * reading a contract
    * reading a train timetable
    * understanding financial schemes peddled by scamsters
    Sure some of us learned to read well early and from then on we could take our functional literacy for granted, and reading class was smooth sailing and might as well have been a literature version of an art appreciation class.
    When *other* students are *still* struggling with functional literacy, they need help getting ready to do the above tasks *far more* than graphic novels or any other literature needs to be respected as art.

  17. android developers

    My first suggestion for some help with visual literacy is the bible of comics studies, Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics”……this is actually an issue for some people who don’t have enough functional literacy..

  18. Susan

    “1. A ton of other district and school priorities to tackle.”
    Such as *functional literacy* (which actually includes some arithmetic too).
    While other people ask you to read Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, I suggest that
    *they* read the article “Functional Literacy and Labor Market Outcomes” by Robert I. Lerman and Stefanie R. Schmidt.
    From the article, available at http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/history/herman/reports/futurework/conference/nalsfina/nalsfina.htm :
    “…It is easiest to understand the overall functional literacy score in terms of what types of questions a person at that level of literacy can answer. Most individuals at the lowest level of literacy, level 1, are able to do very simple tasks such as locate the expiration date on a driver’s license, total a bank deposit slip, or sign their names. But they are unable to do level 2 tasks, which include locating an intersection on a street map, understanding an appliance warranty, or totaling the costs from an order. Individuals at literacy level 2 can perform level 2 tasks, but cannot perform level 3 tasks such as writing a letter explaining an error on a credit card bill, using a bus schedule, or using a calculator to determine a 10 percent discount.
    “The analysis in this study concentrates on the groups with only level 1 or level 2 literacy. Although the tests measure prose, document, and quantitative aspects of literacy separately, the correlation between types of tests is very high, over .9. Thus, we focus on a composite measure drawn from all three aspects of literacy. We group individuals into composite literacy levels 1 through 5.
    “The distribution of the population across literacy categories in Table 1 reveals that over one-third (37 percent) of the 25 to 54 year-old US population did not reach above literacy level 2. About 14 percent attained the lowest functional literacy. The distributions of functional literacy were similar among men and women, though men performed somewhat better than women on the NALS tests. About 29 percent of men but only 23 percent of women demonstrated a literacy level of 4 or 5.
    “Not surprisingly, levels of functional literacy matched closely with levels of educational attainment. The overwhelming majority (83 percent) of workers lacking a high school degree or GED equivalent fell into the bottom two literacy categories compared to only 6 percent of college graduates. It is disappointing that over 40 percent of those at middle levels of education (those with a high school diploma or GED) could not score beyond the level 2 threshold. Another disappointment is that about 20 percent of those with some years of college but no BA displayed no more than level 2 literacy…”
    Simply being able to turn the pages of a book without cringing is the first step, but shouldn’t be treated as full success!
    Functional literacy in one’s culture is crucial, even *more* crucial than appreciating one’s culture’s artistic heritage.
    Perhaps fewer fans of graphic novels, traditional dance, music, etc. would complain about their favorite media not getting equal time in Reading Class and Language Arts Class if teachers of struggling students rebranded those classes? What if teachers changed the names of “Reading Class” and “Language Arts Class” to “How to Not Get Completely Hosed by the Bank When You Try to Buy a House Class” (no matter how well you can grasp the plot intricacies of a graphic novel, if you can’t read what’s in the mortgage contract…) and “How to Not Sign a Confession for a Crime That You Didn’t Even Do Class” (no matter how well you can grasp the political commentary of a Shakespeare play you watch performed live, if you can’t read what’s above the dotted line when a corrupt police officer claims to have written down your witness statement for you*…)?
    * this is actually an issue for some people who don’t have enough functional literacy:
    posted by bookish at 7:07 AM on June 14, 2008
    “Oh god, Shikshantar [a group arguing against teaching written language]. I had a friend who worked there for a while, she was very anti-establishment, into Daniel Quinn and all that, and she still came away thinking they were a weird bunch whose philosophy was basically irrelevant to the people they were working with. They do a lot of fun stuff, promoting traditional dance and music and things like that, but they’ve hardly managed to create a working model of alternative education.
    “The poverty of rural Rajasthan is tremendous, and the Mewari people they are purporting to serve and speak for really, desperately, need better access to ‘traditional’ education. They need literacy, to read contracts they’re bullied into signing, to protect themselves from unscrupulous landlords, bosses, policemen, who prey on the ignorance of the rural poor. Without basic education, they’re isolated and vulnerable, unable to read bus and train timetables by themselves, unable to understand financial schemes peddled by scamsters. The uneducated poor in India are very vulnerable, and they’re aware of their vulnerability, which makes them afraid to do things like travel, report a crime, leave an abusive marriage.
    “Yes, there are problems with systems of schooling, yes, school can be stifling: but for god’s sake, don’t ignore the enormous benefits enjoyed by those who have received it.”

  19. Bill Ferriter

    Jeri wrote:
    If teachers don’t know what teaching visual literacy looks like, it’s because they’re not doing their homework.
    Wow, Jeri.
    I’m not sure I agree with this statement.
    I’d say that teachers who don’t know what visual literacy looks like have a lot of reasons to point at, including:
    1. A ton of other district and school priorities to tackle.
    2. Little if any evidence of visual literacy in the curriculum.
    3. No visual literacy requirements/expectations on standardized tests.
    4. Requirements from district/school leaders to follow pacing guides that don’t address visual literacy.
    Just because we believe that visual literacy should be a priority doesn’t mean that our community—-or those who establish expectations for teachers feel the same way.
    And I’m not ready to expect teachers who are increasingly held accountable for nothing more than performance on standardized tests to be willing to veer away from requirements.
    I don’t know anything about teaching visual literacy.
    It’s not because I’m “not doing my homework,” though—which somehow implies that I’m lazy or irresponsible.
    It’s because my school is tackling four other initiatives this year.
    We’re trying to implement a meaningful academic enrichment and remediation period, we’ve got a new state and district wide evaluation system, we’re trying to get a PBIS system running and we’re continuing to work in PLCs at the grade level and content area.
    Any of this make sense?

  20. Jeri Hurd

    I’m actually starting off the year with my 10th grade English class reading American-Born Chinese, which is brilliant.
    If teachers don’t know what teaching visual literacy looks like, it’s because they’re not doing their homework. There is material out there (and a few excellent books) and we are doing our students a HUGE disservice if we do not address this increasingly necessary skill. In fact, given the prevalence of visual media today, I think visual literacy is every bit as important as the traditional literacies.

  21. Comicsteacher

    I’m so sorry that I was on vacation last week and missed your discussion on comics and graphic novels! As a former teacher who used comics with students from 7th grade to 12th grade, I think I might be able to lend some help!
    My first suggestion for some help with visual literacy is the bible of comics studies, Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics”. It’s a must.
    And while you’re right, that graphic novels aren’t “magic tools”, much of their power lies in their engagement of struggling readers. I kept a box of my own kid-friendly comics in my classroom for years, and even my most reluctant readers devoured them. It’s the action, the use of images to fill in the blanks when they struggle with vocabulary, and embracing of their culture that encouraging the use of comics provides that makes a big difference.
    As far as suggestions go, for sixth graders the first volume of “Bone” by Jeff Smith, “American Born Chinese” by Gene Luen Yang, the wordless “Korgi” series by Christian Slade are great starting points.
    I review kid-friendly comics at http://www.outfromthecomicshop.com, so you’ll find tons of suggestions there as well.
    Feel free to DM me on Twitter if you should need anything else.
    I hope this helps! Keep up the great work!

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