I’ve always loved comics. To me they’re literature as well as art. A big part of teaching reading is enticing students to read — connecting them with books, and showing them reading really is fun.
I’ve always loved comics. To me they’re literature as well as art. A big part of teaching reading is enticing students to read — connecting them with books, and showing them reading really is fun. In an increasingly visual, screen-oriented world, and with students who are visual learners, graphic novels are a natural way to engage students in reading. And once students have caught the graphic novel excitement, they’ll want to write their own comics.
READ ON to discover books you and your students will enjoy.
Image from the Tintin series by Georges Remi.
For Younger Readers
The Bone Series by Jeff Smith
You’ll want to explore the Bone section of Scholastic.com to learn all about the adventures of the Bone cousins. Students can play Bone games, create Bone comics, and share what they learn about author Jeff Smith.
Babymouse by Jennifer and Matthew Holm
I know a group of 2nd and 3rd grade girls who are crazy about Babymouse! Most are beginning readers who are thrilled to be able to read an entire book in one sitting. Librarian friends tell me Babymouse books are constantly in circulation.
Old Favorites in New Format
You likely enjoyed reading the adventures of baby-sitters Mary Anne, Claudia, Kristy, and Stacey when you were growing up. The Baby-Sitter’s Club books have been reissued both in novel and graphic novel formats. Online games and activities add to the fun!
The Boxcar Children Series Created by Gertrude Chandler Warner
These adventure/mystery books about a family of four orphaned children, Henry, Jesse, Violet, and Benny Alden, have long been favorites of readers in grades 2–6. Now the Boxcar Children titles are available as graphic novels and are more accessible for students. Check out this activity guide for crossword puzzles, word searches, and more!
For Older Readers
I first discovered Alex Rider books while listening to NPR on my commute, during a radio interview with author Anthony Horowitz. Alex Rider, the series’ hero, is a 14-year-old boy who is thrust into the role of James Bond-like spy when his uncle is mysteriously killed. The graphic novel versions of the books are a great introduction to the characters and plot and may inspire readers to pick up the Alex Rider novels as their reading skills grow.
And there are the Adventures of Tintin books by Belgian writer Georges Remi. These graphic novels with a boy as a main character were originally written in the mid-twentieth century in French. The books are available in English and remain popular today.
Redwall by Brian Jacques, adapted by Stuart Moore
The Redwall series by British author Brian Jacques is a much loved classic. These fantasy-adventure novels have animals as main characters and can be read aloud to 3rd or 4th graders. Nine- and 10-year-olds will be able to read the intense and scary graphic novel themselves. The graphic novel is only 143 pages, while Redwall, the novel, is 352 pages of excitement!
And One Wordless Book
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
The Arrival by Australian author Shaun Tan is a fantasy story about immigration with themes common among immigrant stories, like isolation, confusion, and misunderstanding. This book of sepia drawings is deceptively complex, making it more appropriate for older readers.
Encourage Your Students to Write Comics!
One year I had a student who wrote 36 comics. He had his own book box for his collection. When he finished each comic, he shared it at Morning Meeting. We all looked forward to the next installment in his series.
You and your graphic novelists might explore online comic book resources, such as Comic Creator at readwritethink.org, the site of the IRA and NCTE. At the Comic Book Project, you'll find ideas to inspire an entire class. There you may also purchase materials that will further motivate your students. And free, blank comic book templates from Hoover Web Design will help students get started on their comic creations.