Each month I honor an individual, team, program, school, or piece of legislation that is helping to promote a quality education for kids. I welcome your nomination for this honor, and I will consider thoughtfully any name(s) you recommend. You can use the "Contact " link to make a nomination. Please explain why you think your nominee should be honored, and let me know how I can contact you for verification. And if you're one of a group that has gone the extra mile, tell me about it. It doesn't hurt to blow your own horn once in awhile. And besides, nobody will ever accuse you of bragging because I don't ever reveal the nominator's name.
The graphic novel, once aimed at helping struggling readers, ELL and struggling learners, has moved into honors and college-level Advanced Placement classrooms — and rightly so. They are listed as reading material for students in the new common core standards, and kids love them.
I have been "pushing" graphic novels for more than a decade [in oral presentations at conferences and through my writing], but I suspect I haven't converted a lot of naysayers. There are, however, hopeful signs on the horizon.
We don't know exactly how many schools nationwide use graphic novels, but we do know that usage is on the rise. Karen Gavigan, an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina who has focused her research on graphic novels, says graphic novel sales have increased by nearly 40 percent over the past 10 years. Furthermore, both school and public libraries report significant increases in circulation after adding graphic novels to their collections.
Last fall Kallenborn's honors English class did a close read [analyzed] of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, with the help of Capote in Kansas — a book filled with drawings and dialogue that appears in bubbles above characters' heads, also known as a graphic novel. Honor student Kyle Longfield said the graphic novel version helped him better understand Capote's book about two killers and their murders in Kansas, and enabled him to lead his fellow honors students through a discussion comparing the depiction of Capote in the comic-book novel to the author's voice and literary style used In Cold Blood.
About eight years ago Daniel Argentar introduced the graphic novel Maus [1992 Pulitzer Prize winner] to his struggling freshman readers. The students, who had already read Elie Wiesel's Holocaust book Night, still had the "deer in the headlights" look. Argentar, wanting an alternative that would appeal to students more attuned to the visual, found the comic format of Maus. Some of his colleagues thought he was crazy, but the students liked it. Argentar has never looked back. He, together with colleague Ryan Aronoff, continues to use the two books in tandem. They have created a website to assist educators who want to try using both books at "http://www2.d125.org/~dargentar/MAUS%20for%20Teachers.html.
James Bucky Carter, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, wrote a book to guide teachers in pairing graphic novels with traditional texts: Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels: Page by Page, Panel by Panel. "I think we live in an age where we should not study text in isolation," Carter said. "Every text should be put in relation to something else," including graphic novels as supplements to traditional literature.
Graphic novels are not just for kids or struggling readers or English Language Learners. Comics are for everybody. Thank you Eric Kallenborn, Daniel Argentar, Ryan Aronoff and every educator who dares to teach the way kids learn. You are heroes in my book.
Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on DiscoverySchool.com