Graphic Novels – a Study

“Do kids still bring their comic books to school to read on Fridays?”  My father, who is now 87 years old, has asked me this question regularly since I became a teacher more than 23 years ago. When I reply that children today have choice over almost everything they read, so we don’t really need to have Comic Book Fridays any more, he harkens back to some wonderful memories of growing up in Brooklyn and having a special time in school on Friday afternoons to read the comics with his friends.  I’ve always thought this sounded like such a nice ritual. I can picture my dad and his friends scattered around the classroom sharing the latest comics, reading together, and maybe even trading comics for the following week. Maybe this is one of the reasons my father is such a voracious reader (and someone who still loves to read the comics in the newspaper)!

I, on the other hand, read a few comics when I was a child, but quickly moved on to books and left the comics behind.  It’s just never been my preferred genre. So when I was asked to purchase some graphic novels for our third, fourth, and fifth grade classrooms, I was at a loss.  I know kids are loving the graphic novels, but which ones were really good ones?  Which ones were worth purchasing and putting in every classroom? Which ones could the teachers use in their literacy work with kids? Which ones would interest kids and move them forward as readers and writers and thinkers?  I looked at some manga novels – too sexy and too violent (plus really hard to read – back to front and right to left).  I looked at a few others that were recommended.  Some seemed fun, but were they really good books?  Then there were the series that were filled with so much fresh and inappropriate language that I just couldn’t push myself to read on.  Do we really want kids talking to each other like that?  But in my study, I’ve started to find some graphic novels that are really interesting and filled with stuff to teach! One series I’m loving is Babymouse by Jennifer and Matthew Holm.  The main character is  well-developed (and she is an avid reader!), the issues are worth grappling with, and the books are filled with  references to classic books, movies and cultural innuendos.  This is a comic I can get interested in.

Maybe I’ll even bring back those Comic Book Fridays after all.  If I do, I’ll be sure to invite dad!

5 thoughts on “Graphic Novels – a Study”

  1. When I was growing up, we went to the library… rode our bikes there every week, all summer. But the library didn’t have comic books. In the summer we visited our NJ relatives, and at my Aunt Elizabeth’s house there were stacks of comics belonging to my cousins who were 7-10 years older. During those couple weeks, my brothers read enough to last a year. I read a few, but I preferred books. However, I do think that Comic Book Friday sounds like fun.

  2. I love that your father was reading comics all those years ago – Comic Book Fridays – I bet the others teachers thought that teacher was nuts (or a slacker) – but look at the good that came out of it!

  3. I love the idea of comic book Fridays! Most of my pre-service teachers haven’t really read comics or graphic novels before, and they are skeptical. But once they read El Deafo, Page by Page, Yummy, Sunny Side Up, or Roller Girl (a few of my favorite “gateway” graphic novels), they are hooked and usually end up consuming my entire shelf of GNs!

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