English Studies

Graphics + Novels = What Could Go Wrong?

Graphic novels can be helpful for students struggling to read in the high school classroom.

When I was younger, I loved reading Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. My parents bought me a book where you could make your own Diary of a Wimpy Kid-esque novel, and I spent hours and days drawing pictures to accompany my words. I still have this book with my own illustrations and dialogue, and most of it is pretty silly. However, I remember enjoying reading these books and recognizing the art that went in to writing and illustrating the scenes. When and why do we quit letting kids read graphic novels?

Three copies of Dog Man books fanned out on the ground.
Children’s graphic novels remain popular amongst children in elementary schools. When and why do we quit letting kids read graphic novels?

When students get to high school, it is rare for graphic novels to be presented as part of the school curriculum. Most people see graphic novels or comics as childish art forms that cannot teach high schoolers valuable lessons in the same ways that other novels can. I believe this is because many teachers and adults have only read graphic novels meant for children, and so they associate the graphic novel with childish ideals. When all that adults have seen are newspaper comics and comics written for an audience of younger children, they are less likely to see the value of Young Adults reading these novels.

Teachers are constantly asking how they can make students care about what they’re reading. As a preservice teacher, I think the answer is: give them things they want to read. If students must struggle through classic literature like Of Mice and Men and The Great Gatsby, then we should also allow them to read literature they are interested in to get them to see the value and range of literature.

Are you looking for some YA graphic novels for students in your classroom? Here are some popular examples:

Hardcopy of Maus held up in the sky.
Maus is a very famous graphic novel.

Graphic novels span a wide range of topics and can teach students about different cultures, historical events, and ideas. Graphic novels are a unique way for students to engage with text and illustrations that are working together. When you have a group of students struggling to read and are struggling to show them the beauty and value in reading, there is a whole genre of literature that combines graphics and words, and in that, what could go wrong?

Baylee Harding
Student Representative, Midwestern Region, 2022-2023
Lambda Xi Chapter, Secretary
Missouri Southern State University, Joplin, MO


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