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Comix are fun, but wait, there is more....

Besides being fun and engaging, there are many other benefits to using graphic novels in education, such as they: scaffold students for whom reading and writing are difficult, foster visual literacy, support, and motivate language learners, and provide a stepping-stone that leads students to more traditional forms of literature.

We know that literacy is not limited to just books and text-based content, but consists other models and media, such as comics, movies and more, that address the needs of those who do not always respond to just text and reading but can develop matching critical thinking skills as those who do, by reading topic-appropriate comix and graphic novels.

Comix and graphic novels can be used to study a wide range of topics, such as literature, journalism, history, sociology, philosophy, statistics, the arts and more. These books are not replacement of traditional text but are a different way to reach out to a wider variety of learners, such as visual thinkers. This is particularly relevant when we view this through the lens of Howard Gardner’s theories about multiple intelligences. The interconnection of text and images, and sequential or non-linear stories, graphic novels promote critical thinking. The results are stories well suited for the visual learner with rich, detailed images as well as engaging narratives, for all people to understand, enjoy, and learn from. In his book Comic Books as History, Joseph Witek, the Director of graduate studies and professor of English at Stetson University writes that “the comic book, a widely accessible and commercially available medium, is now being chosen a form by serious writers whose themes have traditionally been expresses in the forms of verbal narratives (both literary and historiographical),” and that a general reading audience now exists for narratives written in a medium, which has historically been considered solely the domain of sub-literate adolescent fantasies of the crassest commercial exploitation of rote generic formulas. Comic art is thus a literary medium in transition from mass popularity and cultural disdain to a new respectability as a means of expression and communication, and this new respect is evident first in the attitudes of the creators themselves.

One of the primary delights in comix and graphic novels is the freedom to surprise us. Graphic novels and comix provide a more nuanced view that includes a variety of modes of communication and tools for meaning making broadening the definition of literacy.

Subjects that are difficult to broach in the classroom, such as race, religion, and the anxiety about community differences can be introduced to students in graphic novels in ways that other media cannot. Graphic novels are immediate, reversible, and non-linear and can aid untrained teachers on how to handle differences and start conversations about difficult issues. There are numerous examples of graphic novels that tell stories are about youth growing up in new and different, and how the events that they experience shape them into adults, young adults, or even mature youth. These stories describe transitions from childhood to adulthood, and from immigrant or refugee status into a new culture and community. For example, Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese explores the issue of identity from multiple perspectives- emotional, personal, social, as well as multicultural perspectives that address cultural and community issues relating to diversity. Authors from around the world have found the genre to be an excellent media to tell their own stories. Graphic novels examine assumptions of complex issues, such as of shifting identities, in an oblique manner, like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. But in this case, the stories are told as graphic novels rather than shadows.

A graphic novel tells the story only with text and images, but reader use their own imagination to select voices, languages, sound effects and background music. The illustrations provide enough information to make strong, emotional impact, without overwhelming the reader, while the text gives an accurate running commentary describing the activities taking place. As a book, the reader can remain on a page, or move around in a non-linear manner. The impact of this is quite powerful and can remain with the reader far longer than a movie.

Along with the theoretical, there are also practical benefits of using graphic novels in learning environments. For example, the form of a comic book is nearly identical to the storyboards used in movies, television, theater, websites, corporate presentations and more. In instructing students how to make comics, teachers are also providing students with a valuable skill set that is becoming more in demand. Students learn how to create dynamic compositions, transitions from once scene to the next, lighting cues and more. These same kinds of skills are also applicable for creating training tutorials for teaching people practical procedures, such as installing software, or replacing a part in a car. Training videos are good for conceptual projects, but panel-by-panel illustrated tutorials (in the form of a comic) are an excellent media for mechanical training procedures that require the trainee about hard-to-find locations of parts or switches, installing software or changing a vacuum bag or putting on an oxygen mask in an airplane.

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