Here’s an impressive state of the graphic novel in schools and libraries piece by Shannon Maughan for Publishers Weekly that talks to all the major players – Telegemeier, Yang, Volin, and several dedicated teachers – and includes a great resource list.
It’s hard not to notice that the past decade has seen the dawn of a new golden age for comics and graphic novels for kids. Publishers and imprints dedicated to the format—First Second, Graphix, Papercutz among them—have flourished. And graphic novel creators such as Raina Telgemeier and Jeff Kinney have achieved rock star status. Sales of graphic novels in North America topped $535 million (including units sold via the traditional book channel and comics stores), according to a joint estimate from ICv2, which tracks the business of pop culture on its website, and Comichron, the world’s largest repository of comic book sales figures. And a gander at national bestseller lists like the New York Times, which has a Graphic Books category, or a trip to the local bookstore or public library, where shelves are crowded with graphic novels, are evidence of these booming numbers.
“We are in the middle of a graphic novel renaissance right now,” says Eva Volin, supervising children’s librarian at the Alameda Free Library in Alameda, Calif. “Once upon a time I would buy everything that came out, because there were so few things available. But now I have the luxury of choice. I can make educated decisions about my selections. The demand for these books is very, very high.”
With the release of Raina Telgemeier’s Ghosts (and its half million copy laydown) this week, it’s a good time to look at the state of institutional comics, and the state is good and growing. Gatekeepers who say coms aren’t real books are fading into history as the age of visual learning takes over:
These days, graphic novels are being taught across the curriculum, from math to classic literature, and social issues like bullying and eating disorders. More and more publishers are creating teachers’ guides to their books featuring lesson plans, activities, and information about alignment with various education standards. Mindy Tomasevich, librarian at Mills Park Middle School in Cary, N.C., who with Gavigan is coauthor of Connecting Comics to Curriculum: Strategies for Grades 6–12 (Libraries Unlimited, 2011), presents lesson plans for middle and high school students on the Holocaust, political science, and fairy tales, fables, myths, and legends in that book.
More recently, Tomasevich says, she teamed up with seventh-grade language arts teacher Erin Eddy, who selected John Lewis’s graphic novel March, Book One (Top Shelf, 2013) for a unit on the civil rights movement last year, with great success. “I first did a day of instruction about graphic novels, since it was important that students understood why we were using a graphic novel, and exactly how to read one,” says Tomasevich. She taught her students about visual literacy and how the text and art in graphic novels “mesh seamlessly to tell the complete story—you have to ‘read’ the pictures along with reading the text.” Tomasevich emphasizes that graphic novels also contain “the same literary elements as text-only novels: plot, setting, conflict, and author’s purpose, to name a few. And the best things about using graphic novels in instruction are teaching students to understand the symbolism in them, and using them to show students how to make inferences, both of which are critical skills for good readers,” she adds.
So comics: not dead yet.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.