On some of the cognitive benefits of graphic novels and comics in school

When used in school, students begin reading graphic novels during independent reading time in class, take them home to read, and trade volumes with their friends at school. These interactions serve as a basis for instructional conversations about the nature of comics and graphic novels, including the form, or visual/artistic style of the illustrations (e.g., drawings or photographs, black and white or color, realistic or cartoon), as well as the content/genre (e.g., personal narrative, fantasy, historical fiction, biography) of the various texts. Teachers and even librarians, support students by helping them envision and plan how their own graphic stories would take shape, support such discussions. Sones characterized graphic novels as “vehicles with which heir own graphic stories of the school in the improvement of reading, language development, or acquisition of information” (Sones as cited by Conners, 2010, p. 67) and it is possible “to build on students interests’ and use comic books constructively as stepping stones to a lasting interest in good literature” (Sones as cited by Conners, 2010, p. 66).

There are many benefits to using graphic novels in education. For example, Connors (2010) cited the following authors to describe the potential of graphic novels in a classroom, writing that graphic novels can:

  • Scaffold students for whom reading and writing are difficult (Bitz, 2004; Frey & Fisher, 2004; Morrison, Bryan, & Chilcoat, 2002);
  • Foster visual literacy (Frey & Fisher, 2004);
  • Support English language learners (Ranker, 2007);
  • Motivate English language learners (Ranker, 2007);
  • Provide a stepping-stone that leads students to transact with more traditional (and presumably more valuable) forms of literature. (pp. 1-2)

Additionally, student authors can use graphic novels for studying a wide range of topics, including: journalism, history, sociology, literature, the arts and more. These novels are not replacement of traditional text, but a different way to reach out to a wider variety of learners, such as visual thinkers. Through the interconnection of text and images, and sequential or non- linear stories, graphic novels promote critical thinking. The results are stories well suited for the visual learner with rich, detailed images as well as engaging narratives, for all people to understand, enjoy and learn from.

Next week- practical benefits!

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