How can you use graphic novels in the classroom?
Comics and graphic novels don’t always get much respect because they are considered by some as a stepping-stone to ‘real’ reading. While this may be true for some students, thinking among educators is coming to the realization that they offer something else from an educational standpoint – visual literacy.
Why does this matter? Prose-only works offer only linguistic literacy. Graphic novels offer both. As explained by Emory University Professor Brad Hawley, “Think of how vital it is to be able to interpret the subtlety of body language and the nuances of facial expressions. Prose-only literature gives us the language with which to describe body language and facial expressions, but it does not teach students to interpret it for themselves. Only actual images can offer students the opportunity to use words to interpret what they see.” There is so much more to our world that needs interpreting. Consider clothing, architecture, signs, landscape, and other visual aspects of varying environments that human beings inhabit.”
But wait… there’s more. Science students need to be able to describe their experiments. Psychologists, businesspeople, and investigators need to be able to interpret body language and facial expressions. Architects, designers, engineers, and planners of all types need to be able to understand space and how we move through it. There are a lot of reasons to teach with graphic novels. There are also a lot of ways.
First, recognize that graphic novels are not all about superheroes. There are many non-fiction options out there with complex story lines that explain information your students need in a way they can understand. One of the most well-known, Maus, has been helping students understand the Holocaust for almost thirty years. Epileptic helps students understand living with the disease. Palestine depicts eyewitness accounts and helps understand the complex issues in the Israeli-Palestinian War. Explore totalitarianism with Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea or what it was like to be a Japanese soldier in World War II in Onward Towards our Noble Deaths. Hawking and Pele are just two of the many biographies available. There is even a graphic adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank.
Golemon Library has more than 90 graphic novels available for your use and are eager to hear what you would like to use in the classroom. We can help you find teaching guides, study guides, and other materials. No matter your subject we can find something worthy of your students. Relevant this semester are Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918: A Tragedy in Three Acts, helping to put the Corona Virus in context, and In the Shadow of No Towers, helping to understand the events which took place on 9/11. Similarly, Persepolis explains the Islamic Revolution in Iran and brings humanity to the tension. If an option exists that provides depth of knowledge in an interesting way, why wouldn't you use it?
 This quote and several other phrases on this page come from Dr. Brad Hawley's Manifesto on the use of graphic novels found at http://www.fantasyliterature.com/feature/why-you-should-read-comics-a-manifesto/