For Teachers

How to Improve Reading Skills with Graphic Novels

By Correne Constantino May 17, 2011

Graphic novels are a valuable type of literature to showcase and utilize in the classroom. The easiest way to use graphic novels is to suggest specific novels to students who aren’t able to read a long chapter book or who have desire to read one that is above their reading level. For example, if you are a middle school teacher and you have a student who wants to read the ever-popular Twilight series but she just can’t comprehend at that level, you could provide this student with the graphic novel version of this sci-fi hit.

Another way that graphic novels are being used in the classroom is when classes are doing a novel study and all students are required to read a specific book, such as “Crime and Punishment” or William Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” Teachers will identify students that may struggle with the chosen book and will give them the option of reading the graphic novel version of the book so they have the opportunity to be successful. A teacher could also split the class in two and assign the original book to half and the graphic novel to the other half in order to improve reading comprehension. Throughout the reading of the novels students could compare and contrast, debate, and evaluate how well the graphic novel compares to the original work.

When teaching English at the elementary school level, graphic novels can be used to help students practice and learn to infer, or read between the lines. With graphic novels, students must make connections between illustrations and dialogue, with an occasional narrative. This demands readers to infer what is happening and develop the story on their own.

Lastly, I have noticed there are a number of graphic novels in the historical fiction genre which are very helpful in teaching about historical events. For example, if your class is studying WWII or the Holocaust, supplying literature surrounding those topics topic is a great way to illustrate to students what life was like during this time. The graphic novels, “Maus I”and “Maus II” by Art Speigelman could be suggested reading.

I truly hope that teachers of all age groups will read graphic novels themselves and develop creative in ways to share them with their students.

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