Need a reason for using comics in the classroom? Read on…
1. Comics have linguistically appropriate text.
Comics, like regular books, have a wide range of readability (Krashen, 2004). Many comics are written on a 4th-6th grade level, some are written on a much higher level (superhero comics like The Fantastic Four have passages that are on the 12th grade level), and some, such as Archie, have very approachable text on a 2nd or 3rd grade level (Krashen, 2004). What is interesting to note about comics is that most of them have variable levels of text in them, meaning that readers will encounter passages that are easy for them- boosting their confidence- and passages that challenge them- broadening their horizons. Also, the artwork may help to make the story more accessible for some readers (Krashen, 2004).
2. They promote visual literacy.
Visual literacy is the ability to interpret the information that images contain. The interesting thing about comics is that much of the story happens outside the images contained in the panels that readers see (Gavigan and Tomasevich, 2012). Readers must then draw inferences and make mental connections in order to understand the story through the images that they do see. The panels themselves help develop visual literacy as well. For instance, the panels of a comic will often be different lengths that indicate longer or shorter periods of time passing within the panel (McCloud, 1994). Students encounter this facet, and if it is properly explained to them, their grasp of visual literacy grows.
3. They support the standards.
You may not believe it, but comics meet a number of different standards! Here is a list from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Standards for the 21st Century Learner and the new Common Core Curriculum that highlights different standards that comics meet:
AASL STANDARDS FOR THE 21ST-CENTURY LEARNER
2.3 Demonstrate creativity by using multiple resources and formats.
1.6 Use the writing process, media and visual literacy, and technology skills to create products that express new understandings.
1.2 Read widely and fluently to make connections with self, the world, and previous reading.
1.3 Respond to literature and creative expressions of ideas in various formats and genres.
1.4 Seek information for personal learning in a variety of formats and genres.
Grade 2, Reading Standard 7: Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.
Grade 5, Reading Standard 7: Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g., graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem).
Grades 6-12, Reading Standard 10: Range, Quality, and Complexity of Student Reading: Includes the subgenres of adventure stories, historical fiction, mysteries, myths, science fiction, realistic fiction, allegories, parodies, satire, and graphic novels.
Need to hear it in someone else’s words? Check out these links…
Krashen, S. D. (2004). The power of reading: Insights from the research. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics: The invisible art. New York: HarperPerennial.
Gavigan, K. Tomasevich, M. (2012). Connecting Comics to Curriculum. Library Media Connection. 31(2) p39.
Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. (2007). Chicago, IL: AASL.
National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010). Common Core State Standards for English language arts and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Washington, DC: Authors.