I'm really excited to join Franki and Mary Lee at A Year of Reading, Alyson at Kid Lit Frenzy and Claire and Tammy from Assessment in Perspective to talk about this wonderful reading format! Hooray for Graphic Novels!
How many times have you heard that reading graphic novels is easy. Parents want their children to be challenged with "real" reading. Because apparently reading graphic novels isn't "real". But once you think about graphic novels - the writing and reading work that goes into them - it's amazing how complex they can be!
When you think about how a graphic novel is put together, it really is amazing the work and thought authors and illustrators must use when putting one together. You can get the story from the words. However, authors of graphic novels have minimal spaces to tell their story. The writing has to be so tight. They don't have the extra pages or space to make sure their story is explained. If you really want to study writing that must be clear, yet minimal, look at some of the great authors of graphic novels! But usually you have to slow down and check out the illustrations. See, the illustrator of a graphic novel is very clever. They have to break down the story, frame by frame and add all these minute details that give the information that is missing in the words. And figure out how to tell those missing details in illustration!
So now, think about what a reader has to do. For me, reading graphic novels takes my reading up a notch. I've always been a quick reader. I read fast, probably too fast, and can finish novels quickly. I cannot apply those same reading tactics when reading graphic novels. See, when you read in this format, the words only give you part of the story. The reader also has to notice the details in the illustrations and add them together with what is being said in the text. In a picture book, the illustrations support what is being said in the text, sometimes showing explicitly what is stated in the text. Illustrations in a graphic novel not only show visually what is being said in the text, but often adds additional information that the reader has to infer, and figure out how it goes along with what is not being stated in the words! Yikes! That can be a lot of work. And for someone like me, who concentrates heavily on words, if I don't slow down and read and put the information together, I will miss out on a lot of information.
I sat down with a colleague last week and found there was a need to students to dig deeper into their graphic novel reading. Thinking about myself as a GN reader, I knew students needed explicit teaching on how to read and think their way through a GN. My friend knew she had students who were breezing their way through these books, without putting all the information together. By putting these students together, talking about how to read a GN and put all the information together, these students will walk away with a deeper understanding and be able to process GNs in a whole new way. Talk to students about what the text says... then compare the text to what the illustrations show. How do they work together? Do you find information only in the text? illustrations? By conferencing with the students and having the students write in their response journals, she'll be able to assess their processing and understanding. What a powerful group this will be!
I think sometimes we need to have our nay-sayers of GNs come to a group like this. Let's pull out some of Gareth Hinds' GN that cover the classics and talk about putting information together. Let's pull out Jennifer and Matthew Holmes' Babymouse and dig deep and see some of the social concepts that are heavy topics of our schools today found within the text and illustrations.
I hope you'll find an idea or two in here to use with your next guided reading groups!