Capes are optional

comicsComics and graphic novels are in vogue right now. It is a genre of literature that has finally come into its own and is widely accepted. I have been working with a kindergarten teacher to plan a unit using comics in the classroom. The class is getting ready to begin a unit on insects, so the students will be creating their own comics using insect characters.

Last fall I attended the Oregon Association of School Libraries (OASL) fall conference. The theme of this conference was comics and graphic novels – it was titled Get Graphic. While I have been aware of the popularity of comics and graphic novels for elementary through high school students for some time now, I had not done much of my own exploring of this genre.

As early as 2004 the Maryland State Department of Education has been planning their comic book initiative beginning with third and fourth grade materials. Phase 1 of the project includes lessons and supplemental materials for first through fourth grades. The overall goal of the program extends to all school levels, elementary through secondary, and includes adult and correctional education as well. They offer a terrific bibliography of resources for comics.

The Comic Book Project is another terrific resource that I uncovered. It was founded in 2001 as an after-school program in New York City which has since then spread to other parts of the country. The goals of this program are right in line with the goals of most schools: literacy, social and character development, and community building.  Using this program the entire process of creating comic books, from planning to finished product, is scaffolded.

Finally, I recently listened to a webinar through Booklist Online called Let’s Get Graphic: Kids’ Comics in Classrooms and Libraries. The featured guests were representatives from Toon Books, Rosen Publishing – Rosen Graphica, Scholastic Graphix, and First Second.  Each of the publishers’ websites offers resources for teachers and librarians.

Comics are terrific to use with reluctant readers as well as mid- and high-level readers. They promote rereading, help with sequencing for earlier readers, and are great for introducing new vocabulary. They are also perfect to use with students who are English Language Learners. There are so many ways to use comics for reading and writing. I can’t wait to get started!

Image attribution: “Comics” by richardmasoner, http://www.flickr.com/photos/bike/2712178265/