By Leslie Morrison, CTD Summer Leapfrog Coordinator
Over the last decade, graphic novels have become a popular format in classrooms, partly due to their appeal to reluctant readers. More recently, a growing body of research, focused on how the brain processes the combination of images and text, indicates that graphic novels are also excellent resources for advanced learners.
When students read visual narratives, the activity in the brain is similar to how readers comprehend text-based sentences. However, when students learn to read graphic novels with an analytical eye, depth and complexity are added to the reading process.
With graphic novels, students use text and images to make inferences and synthesize information, both of which are abstract and challenging skills for readers. Images, just like text, can be interpreted in many different ways, and can bring nuances to the meaning of the story. In this form of literature, the images and the text are of equal importance—the text would not fully make sense without the images, and the reverse is true as well.
Graphic novels can also challenge students to think deeply about the elements of storytelling. In a traditional text, students uncover meaning embedded in sentences and paragraphs. In graphic texts, students must analyze the images, looking for signs of character development, for example, or clues that help build plot. All of this experience developing textual and visual reading skills contribute to students’ understanding of their world — the ways the text and images all around them communicate — and in turn help them in crafting their own stories.
This Summer, CTD will be offering a class on graphic novels and comic books for grades 1-2. Comic Book Characters will cover topics from superheroes to historical event, capturing complex ideas through a unique combination of text and illustrations. Students will create an original story or recount an historical event by combining creative writing skills and drawing techniques.
CTD will also be offering a session on this topic, called Picture This: Creative Strategies for Writing Comics and Graphic Novels, for grades 7-8 during our annual Opportunities for the Future Family Conference on June 24.
Brenna, B. (2012). How Graphic Novels Support Reading Comprehension Strategy Development in Children. Wiley-Blackwell. Literacy Journal, UKLA, pp.88- 94.
Bucher, K., & Manning, M. (November / December 2004). Bringing Graphic Novels into a School’s Curriculum. The Clearing House, Vol. 78, No. 2.
Cohn, N. (2013). The Visual Language of Comics: Introduction to the Structure and Cognition of Sequential Images. London: Bloomsbury.
Gillenwater, C. (2012). Graphic Novels in Advanced English / Language Arts Classrooms: A Phenomenological Case Study. Dissertation, Doctor of Philosophy in the School of Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
McCloud, S., & Martin, M. (2014). Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York, NY: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.