“Graphic novels powerfully attract and motivate kids to read. Many libraries have built up graphic novel collections and have seen circulation soar. School librarians and educators have reported outstanding success getting kids to read with graphic novels, citing particularly their popularity with discerning readers. At the same time, graphic novels with rich, complex plots and narrative structures can also be satisfying to advanced readers. Providing young people of all abilities with diverse reading materials, including graphic novels, can help them become lifelong readers.” (Scholastic, 2018, p. 2)

Graphic novels are a subgenre of comics. They combine elements of prose, picture books, and film by telling a story through text, dialogue, and illustrations that demonstrate movement. The combination of images and text can support readers by making abstract concepts more concrete and engages students in a complex reading experience. Readers use higher-level thinking skills such as inference, analysis, interpretation, and synthesis as they decode and comprehend the text and images together. Graphic novels and comics develop students’ visual literacy skills, something that is becoming increasingly important in a world where readers encounter stories in many formats beyond exclusively prose. (Edmunds, 2014; MacLaren-Ross, 2016; Random House, 2018; Scholastic, 2018)

A growing body of evidence reveals that graphic novels and comics in the classroom benefit a wide range of readers across grade levels, from hesitant to gifted. We can introduce and promote graphic novels and comics in the same way we recommend other types of texts with students—through book talks, book displays, and in reading conferences, for example. Graphic novels and comics should not be portrayed as a replacement for other kinds of texts; they are another format students can add to their reading repertoire. Since graphic novels include fiction and non-fiction across many genres, introducing them in the classroom will encourage readers with varying interests to give them a try. (Carter, 2007; Edmunds, 2014; MacLaren-Ross, 2016; Random House, 2018; Scholastic, 2018)

Readers will benefit from an introduction to the elements of graphic novels and comics, graphic novel terms, and how to read graphic novels (Penguin Random House Australia, 2017; Random House, 2020). They can be added to the classroom library for independent reading, offered as book club options, used as mentor texts for student writing, and incorporated into mini-lessons. Graphic novels and comics can be used at any grade level to “support, motivate, engage, and challenge students” (Edmunds, 2014).


Putting It All Together

  • Graphic novels and comics tell a story through text, dialogue, and illustrations that demonstrate movement.
  • A wide range of readers across grade levels, from hesitant to accomplished, benefit from reading graphic novels and comics.
  • They should be introduced as a different form for reading and not a replacement for print-only texts.

Introduce the elements, terms, and how to read graphic novels and comics to students. These resource links will get you started: https://prh.azureedge.net/resources/TR_OppositeLand.pdf (Links to an external site.) and https://canadianteachermagazine.com/2016/04/15/using-graphic-novels-classroom/ (Links to an external site.)

· Graphic novels and comics can be incorporated into the classroom in many ways: independent reading, book clubs, mentor texts, and mini-lessons.


How to Use the Beyond Words Resources to Support Incorporating Graphic Novels and Comics

  • Use the book summaries and links to materials to identify and explore graphic novels and comics to add to your classroom library and/or book club selections.
  • Individual and small group activities posted in the Teacher Resource section offer a variety of options for engaging students with graphic novels and comics before, during, and after independent reading.
  • The Teacher Resource section also provides options for responses, reflections, and discussions that can used when incorporating graphic novels and comics into book clubs.



Random House. (2018).  Get Graphic!: A Printable Educators’ Guide to Graphic Novels (Links to an external site.). Retrieved from https://assets.readbrightly.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/9780385388412_5360.pdf (Links to an external site.)

Carter, J B. (2007). Introduction—Carving a Niche: Graphic Novels in the English Language Arts Classroom. In J. B. Carter (Ed.), Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels: Page by Page, Panel by Panel (pp. 1-25). National Council of Teachers of English. Download a sample chapter here. (Links to an external site.)

Edmunds, T. (2014). Comics in the Classroom: Why Comics? Teach.com Blog, August 4, 2014. Retrieved from https://teach.com/blog/why-comics/ (Links to an external site.)

MacLaren-Ross, B. (2016). Using Graphic Novels in the Classroom. Canadian Teacher Magazine, April/May, 2016. Retrieved from https://canadianteachermagazine.com/2016/04/15/using-graphic-novels-classroom/ (Links to an external site.)

Penguin Random House Australia (2017). Getting to Know Graphic Novels: A Guide to Using Graphic Novels in the Classroom. Retrieved from  https://prh.azureedge.net/resources/TR_OppositeLand.pdf (Links to an external site.)

Scholastic (2018). Graphix: A Guide to Using Graphic Novels with Children and Teens. Retrieved from https://www.scholastic.com/content/dam/teachers/lesson-plans/18-19/Graphic-Novel-Discussion-Guide-2018.pdf

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