Monday, March 24, 2008

Teaching With Graphic Novels

I have wide literary interests, that's certain, and lately, I've been getting more and more involved with graphic novels. Now, I'm not just talking about long comic books, like the Dark Knight series (you know, Batman), and Manga, those Japanese comics, I'm talking about novels that are told through graphic form.

There are a few that immediately jump out as growing classics in the field of young adult literature, which I'll get to in a little while. Think about it this way. You want students to scaffold their readings skills to become more fluent and accomplished readers. They do this by questioning, visualizing, connecting, responding, and extending what they read. By using a graphic novel, you'll find that many of your students are drawn more deeply into the story, plus, it allows you, as the teacher, to bring up important questions as to why the author used certain visual symbols and other things along visual lines, it really brings a new dimension to the text.

You'll want to read up first, don't just grab a graphic novel and throw it at a group of 10-year-olds, it might not be appropriate. Here are a few of my favorite graphic novels, as well as my opinion regarding their age appropriateness.

Maus I & II by, Art Spiegelman: I just wrote about Maus a few days ago in a post about the best young adult (ya) holocaust literature out there. So, yeah, again, this is the true story of Spiegelman's father, a Jewish holocaust survivor who was sent to Auschwitz. The books are heart breaking, and brutal in their honesty. The animal metaphor is very straight forward, and has even been defined by Spiegelman himself as 'stupid,' but kids can understand it and really read deeply into this story.

American Born Chinese by, Gene Luen Yang: This is a great story that is told in three parts. Your students will love the story of the Monkey King, will be able to identify (especially if they're of minority race or ethnicity) with the main character, Jin Wang, and will scratch their head and become challenged by the Asian stereotype of Chin-Kee. It's a great story all around, look in to it.

Persepolis by, Marjane Satrapi: What a great story. It's the autobiographical account of Satrapi growing up in Iran, and living through the Islamic Republic of Iran. It's a great way to introduce students to what happened and is still happening in the Middle East, as well as how the vast majority of people over there are good and hard working people who are being judged by the actions of a few extremists.

Yeah, there's many many great graphic novels out there. This is just a start. Actually, Maus and American Born Chinese were both introduced to me by a professor of mine, and I'm actually doing research on Maus, something that I'll probably be discussing more, it has become a major interest of mine, the symbolism in ya and children's holocaust literature.