By Alex and Melinda
Because Alex and I are still not teachers, we can’t share any of our experiences with students or our reading practices in the classroom. What we can share, however, is our enthusiasm for using different types of literature to encourage reading.
Of the many forms of literacy we are interested in using in our classroom; graphic novels are definitely high up on the list. Graphic novels are basically extended comics. They use a combination of text and images to tell a story. The complexity of the images and text vary from novel to novel. They cover a variety of genres and topics and contain amazing images that work, along with the text, to create a reading experience that goes beyond the typical novel.
But like Melinda said, we think that exposing children to different types of literature can teach them a whole bunch! “American Born Chinese” by Gene Luen Yang was way different than I had expected it to be. I figured this was another book about self discovery by the title, but I did not have any clue the morals and lessons expressed in this story would have such an impact on me. Surprisingly, I read this book in less than two hours and followed the story line through the pictures just as well as the words. I never gave much thought to what it would be like to be another “minority” other than my own, but after completing this story, I could really relate to the character’s feeling of displacement.
It took me awhile to take a comic book-themed story seriously and I had to pay close attention the first couple of pages, but eventually I got the hang of it. However, what took me awhile to catch on the most was where the three different stories were going. I thought that this was just a creative way of putting three different short stories together, but in the end I thought it was a nice twist when all three milked into one.
For the most part, it is obvious that each main character in each sub-story was trying to find themselves in the midst of each journey and finally accepting where they come from. I can understand the feelings each of them came across because being a minority in the majority can get lonely sometimes and I know how it feels to go beyond what is familiar in order to fit in, even if that means compromising who you really are. That is a life of a teen, no matter where you come from and this is why this book is perfect for a young generation.
This book is a great asset to a classroom library as a resource to those students, if not all, who do feel different amongst their classmates. Not only does this book present this issue in an attractive graphic novel form, it also helps students see their feelings through another’s perspective. It brings out the reality of the differences and similarities we all share, despite our race, color, or heritage.
Prejudices are still a main controversy in society and if a book like this can touch base on it, it will not only open minds to many students, but it will also help them put into perspective what it is really like to be in someone else’s shoes. This will help them create a well rounded approach to life and will help students not be so quick to judge others for being different before looking at themselves.
Graphic novels can also be a great instrument in developing reading in struggling readers and English language learners. The amount of text (depending on which graphic novels you use) is just enough so that you don’t overwhelm the students, while the images provide a different avenue for reading and interpreting. You may also use graphic novels to develop writing skills. As text may be limited in many of these books, you may take the opportunity to invite students to fill in the blanks with their own text.
There is an endless amount of possibilities to what you can do with graphic novels in your classroom. Before you jump in, however, it is important that you explore this interesting genre and develop your own understanding of how to read these books. Noflyingnotights, is a very informative web site that can provide any teacher or librarian with a clear understanding of this genre as well as a lists of graphic novels of different topics. The reviews provided are quite helpful and will soon have you on your way to adopting these novels for class use.