*THIS POST IS PART OF A CONTINUING SERIES OF RESPONSES TO SCHOLARLY TEXTS FOR LEARNING WITH DIGITAL STORIES, A MASTER LEVEL COURSE I AM ENROLLED IN AT UC DENVER.
I often use an alert from Google Scholar for articles dealing with graphic novels to help me find texts for these posts. I don’t always get articles that fit what I am doing or don’t consider scholarly enough; Google alerts me for a lot of thesis papers. I have found, however, that I can use the author’s references as a resource to more articles. That is what happened this week, I looked at a suggestion from Google that was not going to work but found a great article in the references, James Bucky Carter’s Going Graphic. This article, written in 2009, for the journal Educational Leadership is a great how to for integrating graphic novels into standard literacy education in a K 12 classroom. Carter argues that comics help create “well rounded” literacy learners so it is best to create more robust literacy instruction by incorporating comics and graphic novels .
It is easy to view graphic novels and comics as a genre of literature but Carter states that this is a misconception. Comics should be seen as a separate art form with its own genres that mirror the traditional literature genres. There are great graphic novel examples of historical fiction, biography, realistic fiction, mystery, science fiction and more genres and these titles should be presented with similar written texts. I have made the mistake of using graphic novels as a separate mini unit in my literacy block, and I now see how much more engaging it is for the learner to have access to both written text and sequential images and text in the same genre.
Carter also provides another important word of caution for teachers using comics in the classroom, by reminding the reader that comics and graphic novels are “not necessarily kids stuff”. He tells some cautionary tales of teachers giving graphic novels to children that depicted inappropriate scenarios, and the eventual consequences for the teachers who had not carefully read the materials that they gave to students. The opportunity to offend could be more subtle, the “naked buns” effect describes a situation where a concept, such as “naked buns” is inoffensive in a written text but could be seen as defensive when drawn in a comic.
Going Graphic is a great checklist for the teacher that is thinking of incorporating graphic novels into her practice. There is also a great beginners list of age appropriate titles that a teacher can share with her students.