Many have said, in the past and today, that the books they read take them to different places. The books enchant them into another time or another place and allow them to escape reality if only for a little while. Books have this effect on people. They are able to help them find new worlds, new ideas, and new times as if the reader is in the book themselves. Graphic novels tend to do this as well for those who are interested in this type of reading. These novels are no different in satisfactory reading than any other book on the shelves. They are different, yes, but they are still books with a purpose, a meaning, and a guideline for everyone who reads them. They help many learn to read and certainly help with comprehension, especially for children who are having a hard time in reading classes. Graphic novels are books that are loved by many and have a real place in the literary field as they provide many advantages to children and adults alike.
Graphic novels go back many centuries; however, they probably were not considered that at the time. It is said that cave paintings may have told specific stories and “artists and artisans beginning in the Middle Ages produced tapestries and illuminated manuscripts that told or helped to tell narratives” (“Graphic Novel”). One of the first artists who wrote graphic novels was William Blake as he “created several books in which the pictures and the ‘storyline’ are inseparable, such as Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” (“Graphic Novel”).Between the 1920’s and the 1960’s more and more artists began writing comic strips. At this point in time, these comics were not yet called graphic novels. They were used as a form of entertainment. However, by this time, many artists began to get more adventurous with the form of writing and creating these strips. It was not until 1976 that the term graphic novel was actually used. The article “Graphic Novel” states:
The term graphic novel “appeared in print to describe three separate works. Bloodstar by Richard Corben (adapted from a story by Robert E. Howard) used the term to define itself on its dust jacket and introduction. George Metzger’s Beyond Time and Again, serialized in underground comics from 1967 to 1972, was subtitled “A Graphic Novel” on the inside title page when collected as a 48-page, black-and-white, hardcover book published by Kyle and Wheary (2).
GRAPHIC NOVELS DEFINED
According to the article, “Graphic Novel,” “a graphic novel is made up of comics content” and is literally a huge comic book. “Comparatively, a comic book is a short story while a graphic novel is, as its name suggests, a novel” (“Graphic Novels in the Classroom”). The novels are written and read in the same manner as a comic book as the pages are divided and the use of speech bubbles are prevalent in order to tell the story. This form of writing is called sequential art and has been used for storytelling for many centuries (“Graphic Novels in the Classroom”). Storytelling has been a part of our culture for many centuries and creating graphic novels just takes it one step further. These graphic novels allow readers to see pictures, read text, and experience the story by looking at these pictures and text. They are graphic novels because of these aspects of the books and can help children and adults.
GRAPHIC NOVELS HELP CHILDREN
Growing up, many children, especially young boys, do not like reading or are resistant to it for whatever reasons they have. Many of them did and do everything they can to avoid the school’s books and this, of course, becomes a problem for many teachers, parents, and children. However, they are interested in comic books because they tell a story and are filled with pictures that help tell that story. This is one of the major advantages for allowing children to read graphic novels over other types of books. The pictures and type of writing engage them in a way that makes it easy for them to understand and they actually enjoy reading. This is something that is very difficult for many teachers and parents to achieve with children and young teens. Most do not like to read because they do not find it interesting. Graphic novels give them an outlet to read what they like and still learn. According to Bill Boerman-Cornell, “because graphic novels use images and text closely integrated together, reading them builds within students the same skills they need for reading websites and magazines. At the same time, they may also help students learn traditional reading skills” (p.73). The best part about graphic novels in the process of helping young readers learn to love reading is that the pictures, dialogue, and writing allow them to open their minds and accept reading as an enjoyable concept. According to Karen Gavigan, “graphic novels present information in ways that are more enjoyably understood by a wide variety of readers” (p. 6). It is clear that this will help children learn to love to read and gives reading purpose to them.
GRAPHIC NOVELS HELP TEACHERS AND EDUCATIONAL PERSONNEL
Teachers and school librarians play a major role in a child’s education, especially their reading skills. Many spent years trying to figure out how to get children to read and actually enjoy it. Since graphic novels have been introduced into the school curriculum, many educational personnel have found it easier to help children learn to love to read. Karen Gavigan states “when school librarians use graphic novels to co-teach the standards, their actions enable students to become lifelong learners, well prepared for college and careers” (p. 7). Education starts in the classroom. If teachers and school librarians are able to work together to help engage the students in reading, even if it is by using graphic novels, then they should do so. However, in the classroom, it is important for the teacher to learn how to teach the fundamentals and conventions of learning to read a graphic novel before allowing their students to dive in. Reading them can be tricky and confusing if one is not sure how to read the panels. For example, Bill Boerman-Cornell states:
These conventions might include the usual arrangement of panels from left to right and top to bottom, as well as ways of navigating alternative panel arrangements; the conventions of speech and thought bubble borders (smooth equals normal speech, jagged indicates an excited voice, square or boxy indicates a mechanical sort of speech, and so on); and the shading of text boxes to indicate which character is narrating the story (p. 74).
These are all important fundamentals to learn before even beginning to read a graphic novel and it is the teacher’s job to help the students understand these fundamentals. Finally, teachers can use graphic novels to “engage students who don’t yet know they love the subject you are teaching” (Boerman-Cornell, p. 75). Graphic novels can be used in subjects such as math, science, social studies, and language arts just to name a few. The list of subjects goes on. By using graphic novels to teach these subjects, many students are prone to enjoy the subjects more than they would by learning just out of a textbook. Engaging the students to use different materials also helps them later in life as they go through college and start their careers. They will understand that it is okay to not always use the conventional route.
GRAPHIC NOVELS HELP PARENTS
Many parents spend hour upon hour during the day attempting to help their children learn to read and learn to like to read. Apparently, this is a very difficult task. As stated, many children do not like to read and it does not matter what their parents or their teachers say. They just will not do it. One thing that many parents have said their children, especially boys, do not mind reading is comic books. Many young boys are into Spiderman and Batman as well as other comic characters. Therefore, they have no problem reading these. The uses of graphic novels help parents teach their children that reading can be fun. They are able to compare them to the many comics the children read and show them the similarities. This helps in getting their attention and allowing them to read what they would like to read rather than what they have to read all the time. It is said that parents use these as a deterrence to keep their children interested in books and gives them more time to do other things as well. As parents, they only want what is best for their children. Graphic novels are able to not only be educational but entertaining as well. This helps focus the child’s attention on reading and learning and gives the parents a break as well. Parents also work closely with their children’s teachers in a collaborative manner so that they can be excited about reading at home and in school. By doing this, each person can feel as if they are doing something to help the child succeed in reading and comprehension.
GRAPHIC NOVELS HELP ADULTS
Many adults tend to read more conventional books such as romance, thrillers, mystery or science fiction; however, books such as graphic novels can help open the minds of adults just as much as they do children. As stated in the introduction, many adults tend to read for pleasure in order to escape the realities of their everyday lives. The books tend to take them to different places, different worlds, and they are able to see themselves in the book rather than just become one of the stagnant readers. As readers, we vision ourselves as the characters, living their lives, and doing the things in which the author of the book expects the characters to do. This is fine and a great way to get away from the outside world; however, graphic novels can do just the same thing, but maybe better. Seeing the pictures, identifying with the characters, and reading the storyline may just possibly help the adult reader envision their “escaped” place. Many adults may learn to see reading as a different concept if they were to use these graphic novels as a stepping stone to do so. It just takes a little time to get used to and a more open mind to the culture of graphic novels. Once adults realize they can have just as much fun reading a graphic novel as they can reading a traditional novel, I believe there will be more adults taking the time to expand their horizons and learn more about the topic themselves. More importantly, graphic novels could make reading more interesting for even the oldest adult.
GRAPHIC NOVELS AND TRADITIONAL BOOKS
If one truly knows how to read a graphic novel, he or she may even decide these books are even easier to read than traditional books. As shown in Understanding Comics, graphic novels give the reader a verbal and visual idea of what is happening in the storyline. However, this is not the case in traditional books. Traditional books give you the verbal and you have to envision the visual in your own mind in order to take you to another place. This is not saying that traditional novels are bad. Most people choose these over graphic novels. This just means that graphic novels may be easier to understand and comprehend than traditional books. Understanding Comics teaches us how the graphic novel is written and touches on specific areas of each section of the graphic novel. This can be seen throughout the book, but chapter three helps a lot. This book would be great for any teacher to use in order to help his or her students understand the mechanics of writing and reading a graphic novel. In traditional novels, it is not as easy for us to understand the specific feelings of the characters because we cannot see their facial expressions or body language. We can only imagine how they are feeling and use our own minds to visualize what is happening throughout the book. When reading graphic novels, one does not have to guess how the characters are feeling. He or she can see the stress, anger, happiness, joy, and any other emotion that may be directed outward by the character. We see this in Vietnamerica. We can see stress, hostility and maybe even a bit of animosity that the boy has for his mother on pages 20 and 22. We can also see confusion as well as curiosity on page 21. We do not have to guess how the character is feeling. We can see it in his facial expression and body language. This is something great about graphic novels. It is not a guessing game. It is true, genuine, complete work that allows the reader to understand what is really going on in the book. Traditional books do not allow this. Yet, the good thing about traditional novels is that a person can use his or her imagination and make up the scenes in his or her own head. These people are able to do a little more imagining and wondering (which many like while reading novels) than they could if they were reading a graphic novel. So, which one is better? Neither. That is the correct answer. Not one is better than the other. They are just different in style and are both enjoyable to read. It all depends on the person and how he or she views reading.
In conclusion, graphic novels have a real place in the literary field and have many advantages to children, teachers, and parents. Graphic novels help children learn to love to read, help improve their reading skills, help develop greater comprehension, and give reading a purpose to them. Children are more apt to read graphic novels than traditional books because they are fun and exciting rather than dull and boring. These graphic novels help teachers encourage children to read, gives them easier access to the child’s interests, and helps engage the students by using books that will help with comprehension as well as other reading skills. In addition, adults are a little different. Graphic novels help parents encourage their children to read, but adults without children also enjoy reading graphic novels for their own enjoyment. Graphic novels help these adults open their minds to other forms of reading and enjoyment, gives me something different that will engage their minds, and helps them understand a different genre of reading. If everyone could just understand that graphic novels are just as interesting and educational as traditional novels, there would be many more children and adults reading in our society. Maybe it is time for us to take action and allow the graphic novels to unfold within the reading and writing community.
“Ask.Com.” Graphic Novel. N.p., 17 Mar 2013. Web. 22 March 2013.
Boerman-Cornell, Bill. “More than Comic Books.” Educational Leadership. (2013): 73-77.
Web. 24 Mar. 2013. <www.ascd.org>.
Gavigan, Karen. “Graphic Novels: A Road Map to Academic Success.” Knowledge Quest. 41.3
(2013): 6-7. Web. 24 Mar. 2013.
Graphic Novels in the Classroom. QR Scanner. Web. 22 March 2013.