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Allison DeYoung's 11th and 12th grade English students enjoying graphic novels received from a fall HEF grant

"Graphic Novels for Our Classroom Library"

(Excerpt from Allison DeYoung's 2015 grant request.)

Graphic novels are becoming increasingly popular with teens; the colorful illustrations and interesting topics make them high ­interest books in my classroom. Additionally, graphic novels are especially enticing to students who read below­ grade level, allowing them to have rich literary experiences in an accessible way. Every year, my students request that I add more graphic novels to our shelves! The stories presented in these requested books span from ancient Chinese folktales to the American civil rights movement to the Lebanese civil war to the streets of 1990s Chicago. There is something in these books to interest every one of my students. 


The appeal of graphic novels, for educators, lies in the fact that this literary genre can be different things to different readers: they can both motivate reluctant or struggling readers, and present a new challenge to regular readers looking for something new and different. 


I require a great deal of independent reading from my juniors and seniors, but often when a student gets to his eleventh grade year, he hasn’t selected a book to read for fun since elementary or middle school. In fact, studies have shown that only a small percentage of students actually do the assigned class reading in high school (Heinemann Publishing, 2010). This means that when students reach my class in their junior or senior year, they haven’t had very rich or authentic literacy experiences in several years; this being the case, graphic novels can capture their attention and make reading seem easy, accessible, and fun, even for self­described “non­readers.”


Even for students who read quite a lot, trying a graphic novel for the first time offers new challenges; Hansen writes that the “complex stories and rich character development [in graphic novels] create pleasurable challenges for readers” (2012). Additionally, although many people would dismiss graphic novels as merely longer comic books and consider them to be easy reads, in reality, the format of and artwork in graphic novels “often convey[s] a richness and depth of ideas that require interpretation and high­level critical thinking, analysis, and evaluation skills” (Hansen, 2012). 



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