Review: Teaching Graphic Novels to Elementary School Kids
Teaching Early Reader Comics and Graphic Novels, by Katie Monnin (Maupin House 2011) Dr. Monnin’s new book is an excellent resource for elementary school teachers and librarians who want to teach graphic novels to emerging and advanced readers. Her premise is that graphic novels are an important genre to teach because they combine both words and images that must be decoded simultaneously. Because of this quality, graphic novels are uniquely situated to help make traditional readers out of children who are accustomed to interpreting images through visual and electronic media but have not yet bridged the literacy gap. In addition, she believes it is equally critical to teach a literacy that combines images and words given the real world communications that rely so heavily on being able to grasp both images and text.
The book introduces the basic elements and terminology of comics, covering both simple terms appropriate for K-1st grades (panel, gutter, ballons) and more advanced concepts for older grades, such as the seven types of panels (plot, character, setting, conflict, rising action, climax, and resolution) and Scott McCloud’s classification of transitions between images: moment-to-moment, action-to-action, subject-to-subject, scene-to-scene, and aspect-to-aspect (she excludes his more esoteric “non sequitor” category).
The book provides detailed teaching guides and lesson plans for emerging and striving readers in K-1st grade and 2-3rd grade, and for proficient and advanced readers 4th grade and up. Each chapter provides lists of graphic novels appropriate for the reading level; how they relate to the International Reading Association Standards for the English Language Arts (IRA/NCTE standards); and sample lessons plans and teaching exercises. Dr. Monnin includes a chapter on teaching multicultural graphic novels, including reading lists. I was not familiar with many of these titles, though some of the ones I was familiar with did not necessarily strike me as multicultural (The Essential Calvin & Hobbes; Diary of a Wimpy Kid; The Unsinkable Walker Bean).