Archive for Comics

How Using Comics Can Improve Your Child’s Reading Skills

My name is Adam Kullberg and I’m pretty sure I have the best job in the world.

I (and my teammates) get the honor of helping teachers, parents and students discover how fun it can be to increase literacy, ignite imaginations and inspire a love of learning — all using comics and graphic novels.

Each year our team meets and talks with hundreds of parents across the country. During these meetings we are frequently asked a simple but very important question: Can comics really improve my child’s reading skills?

Since the answers to this particular question are so central to what we do at Pop Culture Classroom, I thought it best to dedicate a full blog to it.

Here are some — but certainly not all — of the biggest reasons comics can have a positive impact on your child’s reading skills and their overall love of learning.

Improved Vocabulary Comprehension

In her groundbreaking book Raising a Reader: How Comics and Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love to Read!, author Meryl Jaffe, PhD. points out that:

“Graphic novels’ concise text paired with detailed images help readers decode and comprehend the text. Reading is less daunting (with less text to decode) and concise verbiage highlights effective language usage and vocabulary while the images invite and engage readers.”

Meryl is pointing out something our team has witnessed time and time again in our interactions with early readers.

When kids inevitably come across a word they don’t know, comics provide a visual “clue” on what the word means.

This additional visual context not only enables kids to learn the meaning of words more quickly, the visual associations help them retain and recall those meanings in the future.

Better Content Retention

We recently engaged Research Evaluation Consulting, an independent, third-party research firm, to identify sources of evidence that support the positive impact comics have on reading skills.

The results supported our own observations that comics have a significant, positive impact on overall reading retention. One example is a study published in the Journal of Baltic Science Education. In it, teachers reported that:

“… cartoons, along with problem-based learning techniques, improved students’ permanent learning (i.e., learning with deep understanding and retention). Teachers also reported the concept cartoons encouraged students to study and fostered an environment in which discussion and debate were welcomed…”

The main concept here is that when kids read and see a graphical representation of the words in-context, they retain the information better than if they read the words alone.

Studies suggest this may be because graphical representations cement long-term memories and word associations more effectively.

Other research suggests that the combination of textual and graphical information allows students to focus more on comprehending main ideas, rather than focusing on minute details, allowing for better initial comprehension and therefore better long-term retention.

One example can be found in a recent article published in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America. In it, researcher Carly Melissa Tribull outlines her findings on the benefits of using comics for education, including that:

“Comics can also help with the long-term retention of concepts in advanced science courses. In Nagata (1999), the popular manga Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon, was shown to help biochemistry students recall terms two years after the course had ended.”

Additional Benefits We See First-Hand

The positives mentioned above are being increasingly studied in formal research, but there’s also a growing list of benefits that we continue to discover through first-hand experience and observation.

More Fun Reading Together

One big example of these “softer” benefits is that comics can make it easier and more rewarding for parents to read to their children.

Not surprisingly, the reason for this appears to simply be that very young kids enjoy seeing pictures and colors, and so demonstrate greater engagement and enjoyment when being read comics as compared to text only.

A Welcoming Format

Many kids have an affinity and familiarity with pop culture characters, topics and formats they experience in their daily lives. Further, kids today are increasingly “multi-modal learners,” meaning they acquire and process information from a wide range of visual sources in order to form a final conceptual understanding.

The combination of these two factors appears to make comic reading much more approachable and accessible for many kids, making it easier and more enjoyable even if they struggle with reading traditional all-text formats.

An Intro to Non-Verbal Communication

One of the most interesting things we’ve observed is that comics often introduce and help students begin to understand the important role non-verbal communication plays in our world.

In our classes and camps, kids seem to naturally appreciate and enjoy the many forms of non-verbal language representations that are often so frequently a part of the comic book and graphic novel medium.

Primary examples of this are the use of body language, color and shapes to express concepts as simple as movement and action, but as complex as metaphors, symbolism and emotions. 

For Next Time… 

We hope this post has been helpful in explaining some of the many reasons comics can be a great way to help improve your child’s literacy skills.

We always want to hear from you, so please leave feedback or suggestions for future posts in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or by sending us email at education@popcultureclassroom.org.

Stay tuned as we explore many more topics and answer more questions for educators, parents and students on how to use comics for fun and imaginative learning.

See you in the classroom!

How to Get Free (or Almost Free) Comics for Your Classroom

Last Updated: 12/20/17

Eager to get started using comics and graphic novels to help your students improve reading skills, increase exposure to STEM topics, or just generally spark a love of learning across a wider range of learners?

If you’re like many of the educators we often talk with, the biggest challenge may be how to afford those comics in the first place.

There’s good news. There are a growing number of free sources of comics online and, with a little creativity, you may be able to get free (or very low cost) printed books as well.

Here’s a few of our favorite ways of getting comics for your classroom at no (or very little) cost. We’ll be updating and adding to this list moving forward, so be sure to check back often to see what’s changed.

IMPORTANT ATTRIBUTION: We’d like to give a huge thank you to the School Library Journal (SLJ) for providing the descriptions for some of these comics via their recent blog HERE. Any descriptions that originated on the SLJ blog/website are marked with “SLJ:”

 

Free Comics Online (Updated Regularly)

Pop Culture Classroom’s Colorful History
Free 2-page comic celebrating major events in Colorado history, plus a free Teachers Guide, Script and Rough Sketches.
http://popcultureclassroom.org/education/colorful-history/

Camp Weedonwantcha
Super-funny and irreverent webcomic a-la Lord of The Flies meets Weird Supernatural summer camp stuff. 
http://campcomic.com/

Hiveworks
A creator owned and free-to-read publisher of a variety of web comics.
https://hiveworkscomics.com/

Xkcd
A webcomic of romance, with sarcasm, math, and language. NOTE: Lots of these are not appropriate for kids.
https://xkcd.com/

The Creepy Casefiles
SLJ: Charles Thompson’s parents have uprooted him from his comfy home and moved to a dilapidated hotel in a strange city, where there’s a troll in his closet.
http://www.drewweing.com/

Princess, Princess
SLJ: A 46-page story about a princess in a tower who is rescued by…another princess. There’s a low-key romance and a strong message about self-confidence in this charming fairy tale.
http://strangelykatie.com/

Sheldon
SLJ: The humor is goofy, topical, and perceptive in this gag-a-day comic with a loose cast of characters: Sheldon, a 10-year-old billionaire, his friends Emily and Dante, his grandfather, a talking duck, a dog, and a lizard.
http://www.sheldoncomics.com/

Breaking Cat News
SLJ: A trio of cats report breathlessly, CNN-style, on the doings of the people in their house in this hilarious gag-a-day comic. Andrews McMeel will publish a version this year.
http://www.breakingcatnews.com/

Gunnerkrigg Court
SLJ: This long-running comic follows the supernatural adventures of Antimony Carver and her friend Kat Donlan at a most peculiar boarding school.
http://gunnerkrigg.com/archives/

As the Crow Flies
SLJ: Charlie is sure she won’t fit in at Three Peaks Camp, a Christian backpacking camp for teen girls. She’s black, she’s queer—and she’s in for a few surprises.
http://www.melaniegillman.com/

M.F.K.
SLJ: A fantasy about a girl traveling through the desert to scatter her mother’s ashes who encounters a cast of characters with their own agendas. Winner of the 2015 Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity.
http://www.mfkcomic.com/

Wonderlust
SLJ: Launched in January, this is a slice-of-life story about a schoolgirl who “learns the true meaning of Halloween.”
http://www.wonderlustcomic.com/

Hark! A Vagrant
SLJ: Kate Beaton’s wry gags riff on history, literature, and pop culture, taking on everything from Wuthering Heights to Joan of Arc. The print collection Step Aside Pops! made the 2016 YALSA list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens.
http://www.harkavagrant.com/

Homestuck
SLJ: Homestuck, with a lot of game-ish elements, starts with one character and builds into a complicated plot about kids playing a video game to save the world. More than 7,000 pages, it’s epic, with a huge fan base.
http://mspaintadventures.com/

You Say Latino (One-Pager)
SLJ: The author, who is half Mexican, explains the difference between “Latino” and “Hispanic.”
https://www.vox.com/2015/8/19/9173457/hispanic-latino-comic

Threads. The Calais Cartoon (One-Pager)
SLJ: Evans recounts her experiences as a volunteer at the refugee camp in Calais, France.
http://www.cartoonkate.co.uk/threads-the-calais-cartoon/

 

(Almost) Free Ways to Get Printed Books

Scholastic Book Clubs Points

Scholastic has been offering a fantastic program for many years that awards points to teachers when their students purchase books from the club.

The more books (including comics and graphic novels) your students buy from the program, the more points you earn and can spend on purchasing more comics.

Plus, Scholastic Book Club is one of the least expensive places you can buy comics that are appropriate for kids. They will often be priced at wholesale or below, and other comic publishers sell through the program.

Some titles are even sold below cost, acting as primarily an advertisement (aka “loss leader) to promote he publishers’ most recent and/or most popular titles.

Partner with Your Local Comic Book Shop

Take a trip to the comic book shop nearest your school and bring your teacher ID. Let the shop owner or manager know you’re a teacher with a very limited budget (but are eager to get comics into your classroom) and see if they can help you out with some free of very low-cost books.

To sweeten the deal for the shop owner, ask them if they have any stickers for their shop that you could place on each of the comics, encouraging your students — and anyone they share the comics with — to go in and buy comics at the shop when they can.

This is just one example of creating a “win-win” for you and the shop, and most owners are always looking for new and creative ways to get new customers.

Here’s a few other things to ask or discuss while you’re there:

  • Ask to look at their discount bins. It may take time to flip through all of them, but it’s often worth it since you can find great comics heavily discounted — sometimes for as low as a dollar each.
  • Ask if they are willing to sell educational copies of comics at cost or a specially discounted rate.
  • Consistently remind them that you’re open promoting their store via popups, posters, or whatever promotional materials they can provide at your school, in return for them donating comics on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis.
  • And, last but certainly not least…

Free Comic Book Day

Each year, on the first Saturday in May, comic book shops host Free Comic Book Day (FCBD). On that day, publishers provide comic shops with a wide range of free comics as a way to attract new readers.

The next one happens on May 5, 2018. Before then, go into your local shop and ask if they would be willing to set aside any remaining grade-level appropriate books after FCBD is over, for you to use in your classroom collections. Let them know you’ll share any extras/duplicates with your colleagues.

 

For Next Time

We hope this post has been helpful! Please leave feedback or suggestions for future posts in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or by sending email to education@popcultureclassroom.org.

In our next post, we’ll be focusing on ways parents can use comics to increase their child’s reading skills.

See you there.

The 2017 PCC Kids’ Lab Welcomes Community Orgs to the Floor!

What’s the coolest place at Denver Comic Con 2017 for families? The 10,000 square foot Pop Culture Classroom Kids’ Laboratory of course!

This year the PCC Kids’ Lab is back, each day bringing a full slate of fun, interactive and engaging activities for kiddos of all ages and interests to the show floor. This year’s theme is You Can Make a Difference, and we’re welcoming even more local community organizations and artists to help us inspire children to make a difference in their community.

These organizations and artists volunteer their time to be a part of the great cause of using pop culture as a tool in education, from promoting illustration in comic books to providing technology to empower kids to make their own media.

Take a look at all the awesome organizations offering fun, interactive activities and be sure to stop by and visit them at the Kids’ Lab during this year’s Con!


Community Organizations to Visit at the 2017 Kids’ Lab

DCC'17 Kids Lab - Pop Culture ClassroomRed Team Go

This is Red Team Go’s second year in the lab. They are a collective of local artists focusing on the comic book, anime and illustration and will be hanging out and providing sketches, zombie makeup, as well as contributing to some great panels. 


DCC'17 Kids Lab - Pop Culture Classroom

Jackman Brothers Productions

Jackman Brothers have been bringing smiles to families’ faces since year 1 of DCC. They bring their A-game with balloon twisting, face painting and the friendliest personalities in the state of Colorado. Not only do they donate their time, but they donate their tips to Pop Culture Classroom to support out initiatives.


DCC'17 Kids Lab - Pop Culture Classroom

The CoMMiES

The Colorado Modeling Militia Enjoying Sci-Fi (CoMMiES) will be back for their fourth year! They will be bringing paper make-and-take models for attendees to engineer. After you are done creating, you can take it to our local ASIFA to do some stop motion animation.


DCC'17 Kids Lab - Pop Culture ClassroomColorado Symphony Orchestra

Once again, our friends at the CSO will be joining us at a table all weekend. They bring funky instruments, fun activities and professional musicians to wow attendees with musical nerdy fun.


DCC'17 Kids Lab - Pop Culture ClassroomDenver Open Media

This year we would like to welcome Denver Open Media, who throughout the year works with PCC to offer educational programming for local youth. They are dedicated to putting the power of the media in the hands of the community and providing technology resources. This year, they will have a spot in the Lab to teach attendees how to be a media maker!


Don’t Miss Out on the Best Kids’ Lab Yet! 

All of these great organizations and artists plus many more will be making the Lab a fantastic part of your Comic Con weekend. We feel that being a part of the community is how we can make change, and we are thankful for the support of everyone. Stop by the Lab with your family for some nerdy and educational fun!

If you haven’t bought tickets yet visit here to be a part of the hottest event of the summer!


Webcomics for the Classroom: Part 1

Contributed by: Jason Nisavic

When students walk in the door to start your class period, what do they expect to find? Hopefully, they look forward to your class as a chance to engage with something unusual and interesting.  For teachers who would like to jumpstart their lesson with a conversation piece, it’s hard to beat a good web comic.

Take for example one of my favorites, XKCD, a fantastic online, science-focused comic that occasionally shows a great deal of heart:

Webcomics for the Classroom Part 1 - Pop Culture Classroom

I have a copy of “Grownups” on my wall because of its profound impact on my approach to adulthood.  This is more than a three-panel punchline – it’s a short story with humor, a moral, and a happy ending.

WEBCOMICS IN THE CLASSROOM

Now, as an experiment, let’s see what we could do with this XKCD comic in the classroom. I gave myself 60 seconds to brainstorm, and here’s what I came up with:

  • English: Turn the story into a first-person narrative. What thoughts does the man have as he navigates this situation?
  • Sociology/Psychology: Reflect upon the expectations of adolescence and adulthood in society.
  • Math: Calculate how many 3” diameter playpen balls could fit in your classroom.

That’s just one strip from a comic that has nearly 2000 entries. Here’s another one from XKCD that’s just as intriguing a comic as it is a classroom resource: 

Webcomics for the Classroom Part 1 - Pop Culture Classroom

Upgoer Five” is a powerful example of the phrase “restrictions breed creativity.” In it, a diagram of a rocket is explained using only the 1000 most commonly used English words (a full list can be found here.) How fun would it then be to have your students use the same list to explain a recently-learned topic as a formative assessment? The possibilities are endless!

OTHER WEBCOMICS OF NOTE

And that’s just to start!  Below is a list of other promising webcomics to engage your students.

A Softer World

Webcomics for the Classroom Part 1 - Pop Culture Classroom

A now-defunct comic featuring mainly pictures with quirky captions, A Softer World can provide hundreds of creative writing prompts. (Occasionally NSFW)

The Oatmeal

Webcomics for the Classroom Part 1 - Pop Culture Classroom

The Oatmeal can give funny, sincere reflections upon life and culture (often NSFW, so be selective!)

Camp Weedonwantcha

Webcomics for the Classroom Part 1 - Pop Culture Classroom

Camp Weedonwantcha follows the ongoing struggles of a group of abandoned children who try to live together in an isolated camp.  Funny, touching, and great character development.  Organized into story arcs, but good luck pulling yourself away once you start.

Colorful History

Webcomics for the Classroom Part 1 - Pop Culture Classroom

Colorful History is a biweekly webcomic created by Pop Culture Classroom that provides short historical comics that focus on important figures in Colorado state history, complete with teacher guides! 

Web comics are an excellent, zero-budget way to start thinking visually. If things go well, then maybe it’s time to start exploring the ways that comics and graphic novels can bring new life to your teaching. And while these are a great start, keep in mind they don’t even scratch the surface of all the great webcomics out there. Keep an eye out for Part 2 to get more examples and suggestions!


The Pop Culture Classroom Kids’ Laboratory Returns for DCC’17!

The Pop Culture Classroom Kids’ Laboratory is back for Denver Comic Con 2017!  

What is the PCC Kids’ Lab, you ask? It’s only 10,000 square feet of pop culture-based educational fun for kids and teens – not to mention the most fun you’ll have all summer long!

This year, our Kids’ Lab theme is You Can Make a Difference. Each day, we’ll be offering a full slate of fun, interactive and engaging activities for kiddos of all ages and interests. All activities aim to give these children and teens the tools to empower themselves to make a difference in their world. With the help of the Denver Comic Con superhero team, students will learn about cleaning up Cherry Creek, making your own pizza garden, creating edible water bottles and many, many more activities sure to leave them inspired!

As a bonus, each activity at the Lab this year falls under at least two letters of S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) and comes with a lesson plan that teachers and parents can request to keep all the pop culture fun alive at home too!

Finally, there will be dozens of community organizations, presentations, live demos, workshops, arts & crafts, and interactive activities going on throughout the weekend.

If you’re new to DCC or just haven’t checked out the Lab before, stop by with your family and check it out and learn all about how DCC’s unique family friendly and education focus is helping us reach pop culture fans of all ages!


Announcing the Winners of Our Third Annual Kids Comic Contest!

We are excited to announce the winners of the 3rd annual Pop Culture Classroom Kids’ Comics Contest! These young comic creators submitted excellent original works displaying the ideas of strength, justice, courage, and unity through exemplary storytelling and art. We are excited to honor their hard work and creativity!

Along with a pair of 3-day passes to Denver Comic Con 2017, contest winners will have their artwork prominently featured in the official Denver Comic Con 2017 souvenir program and admired by thousands of con attendees. Additional prizes include exhibition of artist’s work on the Pop Culture Classroom website and a special meet-and-greet session with a professional comic artist during Denver Comic Con 2017.

See the Full List of Winners …


Announcing the 2017 Pop Culture Educator of the Year Award Winners!

We are excited to announce the 2017 winners of the first-ever Pop Culture Educator of the Year Award! Each of the award-winners below has demonstrated innovative use of pop culture as an educational tool in their classrooms to engage and inspire students, as well as create lasting impacts in their schools and local communities. We are pleased to recognize and honor their wonderful work!

In addition to one of PCC’s own pop culture-based curricula, each award-winner will receive two 3-day passes to Denver Comic Con 2017 (June 30- July 2, 2017), as well as a special DCC’17 prize package.

Thank you to everyone who nominated an educator this year! We were excited to hear about so many excellent educators using pop culture in their classrooms.

See the Full List of Winners …


PCC Partner Sterling Correctional Facilities Wins Will Eisner Grant from the ALA

Pop Culture Classroom is excited to announce that our partner Sterling Correctional Facilities (SCF) has been awarded The Will Eisner Graphic Novel Growth Grant from the American Library Association (ALA).

This grant provides support to a library that would like to expand its existing graphic novel services and programs.

ADVANCING PCC’S LEAD WITH COMICS

SCF is one of the sites of PCC’s program LEAD With Comics, and this grant will allow a new teacher to travel to Sterling, Colorado, to enrich the curriculum as well as fund the expansion of their graphic novel library.

Thanks to this grant and the hard work of the librarians at SCF, the growth of LEAD will encourage literacy and reduce recidivism.

LEAD (Literacy Education in Adult Detention) With Comics is PCC’s ongoing project in jail systems and detention centers across Colorado.

Working with specially trained teachers from local nonprofits and Denver Public Schools, this course aims to improve their art and literacy skills. We believe anyone’s life can be transformed by the educational power of pop culture.

BENEFITING STERLING CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES

Erin Boyle is the former SCF Library Manager and currently works as a regional librarian for the Colorado State Library.

She commented, “The SCF Libraries are always looking for ways to provide public-library quality programs to their patrons. Library staff there are extremely hard-working, and usually have to cope with limited time and resources.”

Because of the remote location of SCF, the grant will help them to overcome the restricted opportunities they face and expand the partnerships they have built, including the partnership with PCC.

ADVANCING LITERACY, REDUCING RECIDIVISM

After a LEAD class at SCF, an offender wrote “This class help[s] men with the stress of prison. By drawing reading, etc. The mind is free to give a man some happiness.”

Another wrote “I feel I can draw a little but don’t have enough confidence. I feel I have improved because of this class.” The LEAD project is a creative way to reach struggling readers and help them find a positive way forward.

On LEAD, Boyle said, “When I taught the program along with teacher Renae Kubitz and library tech Brett Hodgins, we saw the interest and talent that our students brought to the table. It was always fun to talk to students and get their unique perspectives on the graphic novels we read. In particular, when artist Dion Harris came to talk about perspective or anatomy, the room would get so quiet you could hear a pin drop. I’ve never seen such avid interest.”

MOVING FORWARD WITH THE LEAD PROGRAM

Illya Kowalchuk, Director of Education at PCC said, “We are thrilled that the Will Eisner Foundation awarded SCF one of their grants to support the class and our partnership. Winning this grant will provide even more resources to the students at SCF.  All of us at PCC look forward to continuing LEAD With Comics at Sterling Correctional Facility.”

Read more about our LEAD Program at SCF here.

ABOUT THE WILL AND ANN EISNER FAMILY FOUNDATION

The Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation fosters innovation and creativity in graphic literature, sequential art and comics. It encourages others to continue and build upon the legacy of Will Eisner, who broke new ground in the development of visual narrative and the language of comics. Will Eisner is best known for being the creator of The Spirit comic, for developing comics for education and training, and for writing the first modern graphic novel. For more information about Will Eisner visit www.willeisner.com.

ABOUT THE ALA

Established in 1876, the American Library Association is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization created to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all. More information on the grant and the application process can be found at http://www.ala.org/gamert/will-eisner-graphic-novel-grants-libraries.


Pop Culture Classroom showcased in National Council of Teachers of English Spring Journal!

We are pleased to announce that Pop Culture Classroom’s (PCC’s) comic issue, Discovering Literacy Through Comics, has been featured in the Spring Issue of the National Council of Teachers of English’s (NCTE’s) Voices from the Middle!

This is exciting news because it highlights an important comic which illustrates the power of using comics as a teaching tool in the classroom.

The comic was written by our Education Director Illya Kowalchuk and Education Program Manager Adam Kullberg, with art by Jay Peteranetz.

Each page of the comic is specifically designed to pinpoint a way in which comics easily engage readers to facilitate learning.

The Reader’s Guide is also an interesting and helpful companion to the comic, which helps teachers better understand how to implement comics into their curriculum.

The NCTE is a premier organization and platform for the advancement of literacy and education in English. It is a great honor to be featured in their magazine, allowing our comic to reach a wider audience and have a greater impact on the promotion and development of literacy, and the use of language to construct personal and public worlds to achieve full participation in society, as per the Council’s mission.

PCC is proud to partner with NCTE to support teachers and enhance the powerful work already happening in today’s middle school English classrooms.

For a free copy of this comic, the associated reader’s guide, and a host of free classroom resources, please visit http://popcultureclassroom.org/classroom/resources/


Inspiring Lifelong Readers: The Literary Power of Comics

Despite their rising influence across movies, TV, film, and literature, comics are still considered by many to be simple, low-brow superhero tales that lack any real-world impact. Even teachers using comics in their classrooms can fall into a familiar trap: thinking comics are only useful for encouraging struggling readers, and not much else.

But comics offer so much more than the spandex-clad heroes in bright yellow uniforms! In fact, research shows that comics offer innovative ways to teach literacy to students from all backgrounds, helping to shape the way they approach literature and reading for the rest of their lives.

COMICS AS A PATHWAY TO LITERATURE

Blog: Lifelong Literacy - Pop Culture ClassroomWhether it’s elementary, middle or high school, English classes at all levels focus on developing critical thinking and analysis skills in students. But, as English professor Rocco Versaci explains, “students first need exposure to literature before they can be in a position to argue literary merit.” How, you ask? After all, it is hard to ask a student to make literary judgments if they don’t engage with what they are reading or don’t enjoy it in some way. Comic books and graphic novels are the perfect solution!

As an added bonus, the reading of comics and graphic novels doesn’t in any way detract from the ability or desire to read higher level texts. Studies show that “…those who read more comic books did more pleasure reading, liked to read more, and tended to read more books.” Comic books don’t inhibit other kinds of reading, but rather encourage more reading of all kinds!

For example, the graphic novel adaption of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis by Peter Kuper can be the perfect way to introduce students to the classical literary canon while still being engaging.

Blog: Lifelong Literacy - Pop Culture ClassroomIn addition, Kindred by Octavia E. Butler is an essential feminist reading, and the adapted graphic novel by Damian Duffy allows students to easily enter the foray that is Butler’s feminist sci-fi.

By reading the adapted versions students get to experience the literary cannon in an approachable way, encouraging familiarity without being intimidating. And if students can start making literary judgements from adapted versions, they can translate that someday to the traditional texts as well.

ANALYZING COMICS FOR LITERARY ELEMENTS

Blog: Lifelong Literacy - Pop Culture ClassroomA multimodal union of text and imagery, comic books are incredibly engaging for any level of reader. As Versaci also says, “comic books are able to quite literally put a human face on a given subject.” Instead of just reading text, students get an image to connect with as well. However, the typical elements used for analysis in a classroom don’t just disappear when images are added. According to AP teacher Lisa Cohen, the reciprocity between text and pictures “necessitates inference skills” and “allows for a new approach to diction, imagery, syntax, structure, and language.”

For any curriculum centered on literature, literary devices are essential, and by using comics and graphic novels teachers might help students better grasp these concepts. Cohen gives the example of Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, and discusses how looking at the anthropomorphism and animal symbolism of the graphic novel allows for high levels of critical thinking and literary analysis. The symbolism in the novel largely lies in the illustrations, and as such is a unique way to demonstrate the particular device to students. 

Blog: Lifelong Literacy - Pop Culture ClassroomAlternatively, books like Persepolis can show the way that artistic style connects to character development. Marjane Satrapi’s illustrations accompany her view of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and are the perfect site for analysis on how images accompany language and how this creates meaning. English is all about how language and style can shape meaning; graphic novels just offer a new spin by introducing pictures as a site for further analysis on how structure can shape a work.

CONCLUSION

Overall, the experiences students have reading comics and graphic novels help refine their understanding of literature as well as reinforce literary analysis skills that can inspire a lifelong love of reading. Rather than being low-brow or simplistic, comics offer teachers a new and often unexplored way to approach everything from Shakespeare to symbolism to story arc – and everything in between. Every student can benefit from analyzing something that they actually enjoy, and comic books are the perfect way to introduce young readers to the incredible world of reading!