Graphic novels and comic books have been some of the most debated topics recently in many different areas. Many people think that they could be helpful in education, while some others completely disagree. Some people think they are childish, and some think they require just as much comprehension as long, fictional novels. However, despite all the criticism graphic novels often get, the genre is growing recently. Many things have led to this rise in interest, from easier access on the Internet to the many superhero movies sparking interest in a younger audience.
Due to this recent rise in popularity for graphic novels, several people believe that this genre can be helpful in all levels of education. There are positives and negatives to this possibility, like everything else, but the positives seem to outweigh the negatives. One thing that weighs in favor of adding more graphic novels into education is that they are easier to read and can be more encouraging for students who may not like to read. There are several things that one must be able to do to read and understand graphic novels, including comprehending visual imagery and making inferences.
The biggest factors that are helping push graphic novels into education are what was just mentioned; the way students now learn, the need to make inferences, and the need for students to learn visually. Every teacher can admit to having a few students in class that were not particularly good readers or that did not enjoy reading. If graphic novels were read more widely in classrooms, that would help with these certain students learning. The vocabulary and diction used in this genre is much simpler than in most word-based novels that would be read in class.
Often, students who are given a very long book, they simply do not even read for their assignments. However, if one of these same students was given a longer graphic novel, like Watchmen for example, it is very likely that they would be more willing to read. Another method that makes these works easier for some students is that the words are more spread out, which makes the student only comprehend small parts at a time. This makes students who are less confident with their reading skills able to better manage comprehending the purpose in a novel.
Although the speech in graphic novels is simpler, students are still “challenged by the need to infer and decipher a variety of literary devices” (Constantino). Another positive factor in graphic novels is how visual it is. Children today are becoming much more visual learners. This is probably due to the prevalence of television and computers in today’s society. While, television and computers have often been looked at as negative impacts in children’s learning, many students have figured out that there are good things on television and the internet.
Also, these students have found out that there are books that are not particularly good, despite what they have been taught. While there is still going to be those people out there who will have their doubts about allowing this genre in education, students would benefit from having more visual learning and less long narratives in class, which is just what graphic novels would bring. One of the most important abilities for a student when reading is learning how to make inferences.
Many times in comics and graphic novels, the author will give a “bare outline” of what is going on, and leave the reader to “fill in the blanks” with the scenery or facial expressions of the characters (Walter). This ability is key to not only reading, but also in daily life. Inferences often need to be made in conversation to know exactly what situation that person is going through. If graphic novels were added to more school’s curriculum, then not only would students’ reading abilities improve, but their conversational skills would also improve.
The reader of comics must also be able to decode the messages that the writer displays in his work. No matter how discrete of a message the author may insert into a work, the reader must be able to put together the pieces of the puzzle to create a continuous story. The reader must perform closure in between the “encapsulated moments in order to create a completed whole out of fragments” (Duncan and Smith 12). This closure that the reader must make is very similar to making inferences.
To do both, one must apply background knowledge and relate events that may be described indirectly to blend these sequences into a constant story. Because of the important skill of making inferences that is necessary to read and understand graphic novels, they can be used as a gateway to reading more challenging works by developing this skill in children. As was mentioned previously, children are relying more and more on learning through visual techniques. Because of that, comics can be much more helpful than long narratives in teaching students to understand imagery, tone, symbolism, and many others.
One example of how visual aids can help students learn is by using facial expression or body language of the drawn characters in graphic novels. Students will be able to gain many details of the story by simply looking at these two things. By looking at a character’s facial expression, one can learn the current mood of the story, along with what tone the character may be using. Teaching students to look at these things will not just help them when reading a graphic novel, it can also help them figure out certain situations that may occur during their lives.
While some people argue that graphic novels are much simpler or not as mentally stimulating, they do share some characteristics with text-based narratives. One characteristic in particular is that they both use onomatopoeia. While these text-based narratives will insert these words into a sentence, graphic novels will make an entire panel out of one of these words. Although both of these genres do use onomatopoeia equally as much, the usage in graphic novels is more imaginative.
In graphic novels, the word is usually brought to the center of the page, and made colorful and exciting. Because of the way that graphic novels display this literary technique, students can easier realize when that literary device is being used. Students can get a better understanding of when this literary device is applicable, and that will make them more confident as they continue reading. Despite the fact that graphic novels can often maintain a simpler vocabulary, they can still teach students simple literary devices like onomatopoeia.
While the vocabulary is usually simpler, the material is more complex. As Linda Starr states in her article, an advantage of using graphic novels in the classroom is that these books “present complex material in readable text”. This gives graphic novels an advantage over other, harder to read, novels because more often than not, these students have a greater understanding of issues that are dealt with in books, but not all the time can they decipher what the issues are because of the more difficult vocabulary.
One way to simplify things for these students, while still challenging them mentally is to provide more graphic novels in the curriculum. There is always going to be crowds of people who will deny graphic novels ever being relevant in education, but the different ways students are learning, the way students must make inferences, and the visual techniques that are displayed in graphic novels all provide reasons why these texts should be included in the classroom today.
Graphic novels can serve as a spring into a lifelong love of reading or it can simply keep the student interested enough to get through an assignment. Whatever a student’s level of reading skill, there is no doubt that they will be able to read a graphic novel, while still maintaining a certain complexity in the ideas presented. Graphic novels can also teach students how to make inferences, as well as recognize and understand common literary techniques.
Above all, students’ imaginations, and possibly interests will rise because of this genre being implemented into a curriculum. As Jesse Karp notes about graphic novels, “the form reaches young people in a way no other can”, and that is what is most important to future students’ learning. Works Cited Constantino, Correne. “Teaching English and Reading with Graphic Novels”. Education. cu-portland. edu. Concordia University, n. d. Web. 3 May 2013. Randy Duncan and Matthew J. Smith.
The Power of Comics: History, Form and Culture. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group, 2009. Print. Karp, Jesse. “The Case for Graphic Novels in Education”. Americanlibrariesmagazine. org. Chicago: American Library Associarion, 1 Aug. 2011. Web. 3 May 2013. Starr, Linda. “Eek! Comics in the Classroom! ”. Educationworld. com. Education World, 11 Jan. 2008. Web. 3 May 2013. Walter, Carlene. “Graphic Novels”. Eclection. wikispaces. com. Tangient LLC, n. d. Web. 3 May 2013.
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