Graphic Novels: Revolutionizing the Classroom

When I think about the controversy that surrounds the teaching of graphic novels, I wonder why people are so against using them as a medium. I get that it is exposing students to the “trivial” situations that happen in our everyday lives and sure, we don’t need to be teaching elementary students the dangers of adultery, violence, and the overall corruption of our society as a whole — but I do believe that this is appropriate to expose to an older audience. It is widely known that students are more likely to respond when given a multi-modal way of approaching literacy. However, critics state that this is messing with the traditional mediums of literature and ultimately claim that the substantial use of pictures, “dumbs it down”. Concordia University in Portland, Oregon argue for the use of graphic novels in classrooms in an article:

“…it is important to note that including pictures in a graphic novel does not negate its literary value. Many of the same literary elements that are present in traditional literature are also present in graphic novels, such as symbolism, characterization, and plot.” – Concordia University

These proponents for graphic novels also believe that graphic novels portray the “touchy subjects” that wouldn’t necessarily be put into textbooks or other forms of literature. For example, the graphic novel This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki has been widely protested for its subjects of miscarriage, depression, sexuality, and drugs to name a few. These topics “test the boundaries” for what is normally taught in literature classes.



(copyright Jillian & Mariko Tamaki)



      (copyright Jillian & Mariko Tamaki)


The two main characters are 10-12 years old and the graphic novel follows their journey from their safe childhood, into the unyielding world of “adulthood”. You wouldn’t find something like this unless you read a book meant for elementary schoolers (leave that to Junie B. Jones). But, this graphic novel takes a whole new adult view on something that the reader can all relate to. I believe that graphic novels that touch on the more controversial topics are useful in the classroom because they give a new multi-modal way to approach literature and that they are indeed appropriate for the classroom.



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