This resource has been developed to highlight how graphic novels can engage pupils and how they can be used throughout the curriculum.
A graphic novel can be described as a novel whose narrative is conveyed through a combination of text and art, usually in comic-strip form, but with lengthier and more complex storylines. They are generally sold in bookstores and comic book shops, rather than in newsagents where regular comics tend to be purchased.
Graphic novels can play an important part in encouraging reading amongst pupils. The flexibility of the comic medium, which is used in graphic novels, means that they can tell complex stories or explain difficult ideas in a simple way. Layouts can be designed in a ‘text heavy’ or ‘text light’ form (from many words to none at all). This versatility permits universal reader appeal. The comic medium can even be used to create non-fiction, such as 'how-to’ manuals or autobiographies.
Consequently, it is possible to build a graphic novel collection which challenges the good reader whilst supporting those less enthusiastic. This is the key strength of the graphic novel in a school or library setting. They can be acquired simply to broaden current leisure reading material, while certain titles can be used to support specific areas within the curriculum.
Comics and graphic novels are usually approached with caution by both libraries and schools, as their content has often been seen as controversial and somehow undermining literacy. When using this medium, teachers and librarians may encounter colleagues who still feel this way.
Those aiming to implement the use of graphic novels in their school will have to understand this negative perspective and be able to show that they are very diverse, offering a huge range of reading experiences. The fact that graphic novels/comics enhance rather than undermine reading skills must also be emphasised.
Using graphic novels across the curriculum
The materials in this resource are aimed at supporting staff in both developing their knowledge of the comic/graphic novel medium and understanding its full potential in a classroom/leisure reading situation.