Graphic novels


Using graphic novels in the education system and more so in the reading process tends to motivate reluctant readers. These novels provide the reader with entertainment present in many forms of conventional media. It is imperative that these novels are not accorded significance by educators with their benefits notwithstanding. Regardless of the acknowledgement by librarians and students, the media is not yet included in the educational curriculum, and therefore, not used in classrooms. This study looks at the perceptions of educators on using graphic novels in motivating reluctant readers and whether such strategies motivate these readers. Five high school teachers and five librarians were interviewed about their perceptions on the use of graphic novels to facilitate learning. The analysis into their responses reveals that most educators do not use graphic novels to motivate reluctant readers due to the absence of this genre in the curriculum (Frey & Fisher, 2008). However, they recognized the benefits of using graphic novels in motivating reluctant readers and have positive perceptions on including graphic novels into the curriculum. Similarly, Smith (n.d) argues that most librarians confirmed the rise in popularity of the use of these novels and attested to the preference of this media by most readers.

 Graphic novels

A graphic novel is a story whose presentation is in a comic strip format and offered as a book. Graphic novels have the concept and share significant similarities with comic books in that they present some of the same themes as presented in comic books. However, unlike comic books graphic novels aim at a mature audience and have serious literary themes as well as sophisticated artwork. Graphic novels offer educators an opportunity to explore the rhetoric of the print world while enabling students become media literate (Jacobson 2010). Similar to films, the Internet, and television, graphic novels systematically combine words and pictures to put across ideas and concepts. Graphic novels, offer spectacular art, stories, and information, and give learners a chance to apply critical thinking in evaluating, analyzing, and even creating graphic novels. The idea behind the use of these graphic novels is that it may help readers to inquire about what they see, read, and even heat.

Statement of the problem

Learning is achieved with the use of many different media channels but most educators insist strongly on the use of traditional written novels to learn. However, some of these educators choose to diverge from this tendency of using written novels by assigning students’ essays, poems, or speeches facilitate learning (Monnin, 2010, p.120). Furthermore, others divert further away from this traditional format and show films or art to portray an historical context or give a story a different spin. Nevertheless, a medium that educators frequently overlooked is the importance graphic novels. While there has been a widespread acceptance of the importance of graphic novels in education most of its use has been out of the classroom context. Additionally, Adams (2008) suggests that the using graphic novels into the curriculum would popularize the often ignored yet significant medium, motivate reluctant students, and diversify the learning process often done in a predictable and archaic manner. Most research in this subject has focused on the benefits of introducing graphic novel into the curriculum and failed to provide for the perceptions of teachers on the issue. This research therefore looks at the perceptions of teachers about implementing graphic novels into the curriculum.

Purpose of the study

The failure to employ graphic novels in education results from the persistent conventionalism and deceptive stereotypes of lack of quality in the graphic novels. Similar to comics and conventional novels, graphic novels are just as diverse in their themes and magnificent in their scope as these written novels often taught in schools. Some educators have made important steps of including graphic novels in their curriculum, nevertheless more is necessary to give graphic novels the recognition and the credit it deserves. The purpose of this study, therefore, is to inquire on the perceptions of teachers on using graphic novels in learning and establish the perceptions of educators towards including this medium into the curriculum. Additionally the study endeavors to establish the popularity of graphic novels and particularly its availability. In achieving this purpose, the study employs the use of face-to-face interviews and provides its analysis of the data from these interviews.

Research question

  1. Do graphic novels motivate reluctant readers?
  2. Are librarians buying into more of graphic novels?
  3. What are the perceptions of teachers towards using graphic novels?
  4. Would the teachers implement graphic novels into the reading curriculum?


There is a positive perception from teachers on including graphic novels into the teaching curriculum.


The research design used in the validation of the research hypothesis follows a qualitative approach using the grounded theory method. The choice of the grounded theory in conducting this research stems from the systematic and rigorous approach informed by the experiences of the participants. The preferred methods of data collection in this research would be the use of interviews. The interviews employed the use of both oral questions and written questionnaires to collect relevant data. The use of simple sampling procedures from a population of educators as well as librarians with five interviewees from each category forms the basis of collecting the data used (Marshall & Rossman, 2010, p.130). The interview questions are pre prepared to form a consistency in the responses of the interviewees to provide better analysis. Additionally the use of open-ended questions in the interviews provides for acquisition of more comprehensive responses from these interviews.

Theoretical framework

Graphic novels are a form of art that is frequently associated with newspaper comics and fictional superheroes. Although there are numerous comics that fit the two accounts, several graphic novels exist that fit a classroom context. These graphic novels use the concepts of maturity in the theme, quality storylines, and multifaceted character developments. Even though graphic novels portray supernatural features or dramatic incidences, they convey fundamental themes comparable to those in text novels (Heather, 2007, p.98). The magnificence of graphic novels emanates from their ability to blend the two aspects of storytelling, which are written word and drawn art. Scholarly theories on using graphic novels in learning remain in an infant stage but its use considered as a legitimate art. The critics of its use claim that given the use of pictures in graphic novels to put across the story and replacement of standard books with graphic novels is bound to decline the overall literacy.

The benefits associated with using graphic novels to show that the medium can significantly improve the reading and learning process. Smith (n.d) identifies that using graphic novels facilitates differentiation of instruction in the process of learning together with the student assessments. Its use can also develop critical reading skills among reluctant readers because they have fewer words and the arrangement of these words in contrast to the artwork conveys significance, which is an essential factor in the reading process.

The use of graphic novels also benefits readers by engaging them by looking more thoroughly at the genre of the graphic novel. Moreover, Peterson (2010, p.200) provides that graphic novels enable the examination of literary elements. It is imperative that the inclusion of pictures in graphic novels does not negate the medium’s literary value. This is so because the literary elements present in traditional novels are present in graphic novels but only modified.

Significance of the study

The inclusion of graphic novels in the curriculum would benefit the learning process in several ways. Many students dislike their reading, possibly because of boredom associated with reading solid text and have trouble connecting to their educator’s interest in the matter. By employing graphic novels, an educator can show unmotivated readers an easier way to appreciate reading and thereby drawing them deeper into reading (Harris, 2013, p.90). Using graphic novels would not only diminish learner-educator antipathy, but also provide readers with a new perspective on reading and increase their attentiveness in the reading process and in extension the entire learning process. After acquiring knowledge on how to recognize artistic features in graphic novels, readers would develop a better comprehension for writing features in traditional novels.

Additionally the educators would benefit from growing their skills and areas of knowledge by learning to create stronger relations among diverse genres. The significance of this study, therefore, is to find a correlation between using graphic novels and motivation of reluctant readers. The limitations of this study however include the limitation of data to support the hypothesis. This stems from the small number of individuals interviewed as well as the limitation in time to conduct the study. However in order to attain the optimal output from the use of these novels it is imperative to put into consideration the perceptions of teachers on implementing graphic novel into the syllabus.

Reference list

Adams J.  (2008). Documentary graphic novels and social realism. Peter Lang.

Frey N. & Fisher D. (2008). Teaching Visual Literacy: Using Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Anime, Cartoons, and More to Develop Comprehension and Thinking Skills. Corwin Press.

Harris A. R. (2013). Graphic Novels. PABDO.

Heather Booth, H. (2007). Serving Teens through Readers’ Advisory. American Library Association,

Jacobson P. (2010). Using Graphic Novels in the Classroom to Improve Reading Achievement and Motivation.

Marshall C. & Rossman, B. ( 2010). Designing Qualitative Research. SAGE.

Monnin K. (2010). Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary Classroom. Maupin House Publishing, Inc.

Peterson S. S. (2010). Teaching with Graphic Novels: In Grades 4-12 Classrooms. Portage & Main Press.

Smith J. (n.d). Using graphic novels in the classroom: a guide for teachers and librarians. Graphix.