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Library Trends

Comics in the Classroom: The Literacy Benefits of Comics & Graphic Novels

In recent years, much has been written about the value of comics and graphic novels for encouraging and increasing literacy, particularly in reluctant readers. They’ve been shown to sustain interest, increase reading motivation, and improve reading comprehension.

This should come as no surprise – comics have been introducing millions to the joys of reading since the turn of the 20th century. In fact, in the Golden Age of comics (1938-1956), 90% of households purchased comics and new issues regularly sold over a million copies a week.

However, in the 1950s, public opinion soured due in large part to Seduction of the Innocent by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, which argued that comics caused juvenile delinquency. Even those who did not ascribe to Wertham’s philosophy began to assume that comics, if not dangerous, were simply an idle, unproductive pastime offering little merit, literary or otherwise.

In a recent Bibliotheca webinar, Ka-Pow! Unleashing the Superpowers: Engaging Reluctant Readers with Comics & Graphic Novels, Professor Stephen Krashen, a renowned linguist and the most frequently cited scholar in the world of language education, debunked these myths. Krashen shared his personal story of using comic books to move from the “low reader” group to the advanced group and revealed staggering statistics about the benefits of comics and graphic novels for readers of all levels.

  • Comics develop multiple literacies as readers use text and images to decode meaning
  • Reading proficiency has been shown to be higher in those who read comics
  • Comics use more rare words than traditional texts, increasing vocabulary

Iurgi Urrutia, Convenor ALIA Graphic Novels & Comics SIG at Kingston Libraries, joined the webinar to share his story of using comics and graphic novels to learn a second language and develop a life-long passion for reading of all kinds. Though some who view comics as simple, Urrutia argues that they “can be really complex texts. They model concise and efficient writing as well because you can’t have long chunks of text. They teach you to be very judicious with every word.”

Watch the webinar on demand to hear the full conversation (including a Q&A) and learn how your library can unleash the power of comics to promote life-long reading for all ages.


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