Advertisement

KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Young Adult literature

Graphic novels and ‘reluctant readers’

by Danielle Binks , February 25, 2014Leave a comment

graphic novels

 

Last year the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) added the first graphic novel to its VCE English text list. Maus by Art Spiegelman is about a Jewish cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story of surviving Hitler’s Europe. It’s wonderful that Maus has been added, but considering Spiegelman won the Pulitzer for Maus back in 1992, was it really such a bold move by the VCAA – or just long overdue?

In the same way that comics and graphic novels are hardly ‘new’ art forms (with origins traced back to poet William Blake), using comics in the classroom is hardly a novel concept to many teachers and school librarians. Rather, it’s the treatment and teaching of comics and graphics novels as worthy literary texts that is in need of an overhaul, particularly when there has been an assumption that ‘graphic novels’ are synonymous with material for reluctant readers.

Adele Walsh taught in secondary and primary school settings for seven years before becoming Program Coordinator at the Centre for Youth Literature. She agrees that many educators use comics and graphic novels as an enticement to reluctant readers with the hopes that they’ll be a gateway to ‘proper literature’ eventually.

‘Yes, comics can be an entry point for those struggling to engage with reading,’ says Walsh, ‘but they are also a legitimate form of storytelling with literary merits.  To frame them exclusively as a tool or a stepping stone is demeaning to the creators. It also frames comics as something easy to consume, whereas they are often quite sophisticated.’

There’s also a pervasive assumption that because most reluctant readers are boys, graphic novels are a remedy specifically for them. This sort of thinking goes hand-in-hand with the equally insulting presumption that ‘girls don’t read comics’ (*ahem* Womanthology: Heroic).

Walsh agrees: ‘There is a growing acknowledgement of the artistry in comics, however there needs to be less congratulation for those who are using comics only as a means of tackling the ‘boys books’ problem. Comics are for all readers and we should be promoting them as such.’

‘All literature programmers should be taking their cues from the audience,’ Walsh advises, ‘and in this case, teens have been reading comics and manga for a long time. It’s time for everyone else to catch up.’

We should also be embracing local talent – everyone from Shaun Tan to The Deep series for younger readers. Comics and graphic novels have been a thriving literary industry in the US for a long time now, and institutions like the Young Adult Library Service Association (YALSA) offer wonderful resources, such as the Great Graphic Novels for Teens list.

The Eisner Awards (prizes for creative achievement in American comic books) have been awarding best publications for young reader titles since 1996, with separate categories for children’s and young adult works as of 2012.

And while there’s plenty of comic material that is teen-specific, there are also many ‘adult’ titles worth exploring; from Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoirs, to Brian K Vaughan’s Saga series and Joe Hill’s Locke and Key.

Comics and graphic novels are wonderful literary forms that explore new storytelling dimensions, and marry high art with evocative text. They should be embraced in the modern classroom, not merely used begrudgingly as stepping stone literature for reluctant readers.

Walsh concurs; ‘Reading is almost always an exercise in bravery and immersion so jumping into a new medium (although lets face it, comics aren’t new) is something we should all be very excited by.’

Danielle Binks is a Melbourne-based blogger, editor and aspiring writer of young adult fiction. 

ACO logo




anchorpoint_cover-hi-res-2

James Tierney

Unblinkingly Into Harsh Terrain: Alice Robinson’s Anchor Point

The Australian landscape is much traversed in our national imagination, yet rarely entirely comfortably. For the 85 per cent of Australians living within 50 kilometres of the coast, the continent that lies at our backs that is emptier, hotter, and remains haunted by the circumstance of its possession. Read more »

loitering-cover-cmyk-570

Sam van Zweden

The Writer at the Centre of the Essay: Charles D’Ambrosio’s Loitering

Loitering is Charles D’Ambrosio’s quietly brave collection of experimental essays. It doesn’t announce itself noisily, but associations slide sideways through the essays in unexpected ways. This collection is lyric in both senses – freely associative and loose, it borrows from the world, trying meaning on for size, producing metaphors and connections wherever it sees fit. Read more »

discworld

Elizabeth Flux

Footnote to a life: How Terry Pratchett kept me from going postal

If imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, then teenage me would have been the steamroller to Terry Pratchett’s somewhat plagiarised tarmac. In the ten years since I first picked up The Fifth Elephant, my work has been littered with Pratchettisms to varying degrees. Read more »

Rebecca Shaw

TERF War: Transphobia in the LGBTQI community

I started to realise that I was ‘not like other girls’ about the time I hit puberty. From that point on I underwent an extensive and daunting process to emerge from my closeted cocoon into the beautiful lesbian butterfly I am today. An important part of that development was realising – mostly via the Internet (or very occasionally through people I met in real life) – that there were people like me all over the world. Read more »

9807778273_afe6ec792d_z

Rebecca Shaw

Breaking the Celluloid Ceiling

We are still at a point where far less than half the movies we see have a clear female protagonist, even though women are half of the population. If women as an ENTITY are not properly represented, their stories not told, what chance then do women of colour have? Read more »

article-2301242-18FA52E4000005DC-314_470x763

Rebecca Shaw

An Inconvenient Truth: Social stigma and menstruation

If you have heard of menstruation, you would know that it is an essential process in a little tiny thing called the EXISTENCE AND CONTINUATION OF HUMAN LIFE, and it is something that most (not all) women experience for about five days every month for a large part of their lives. It is a topic (besides shopping, lol) that women think about frequently. Read more »

flock_roof

Anwen Crawford

Don’t be Sheepish: Why Ewe Should See Shaun the Sheep Movie

Shaun the Sheep Movie is the latest feature-length production from Aardman Animations (the folk who brought us Chicken Run), and it is a delight. Borrow a young relative for cover if you must, but believe me, you are not too cool for a kid’s movie when it’s this much fun. Read more »

9331818982_322b389ff2_z

Annabel Brady-Brown

The blue pill or the red pill? In defence of highbrow film

Cinema is a powerful medium. Going to the movies, be it a Lav Diaz epic or a Michael Bay blockbuster, is an act of submission. You hand over $15 and the whole mash of your brain/senses/heart/dreams for ninety minutes. Read more »

girlwalkshomealoneatnight

Anwen Crawford

Bad Cities

A Most Violent Year has an atmosphere of all-pervading dread, like a film noir, as if the polluted air of New York itself was causing people to act against their better intentions. Even more haunting and more noir is A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, a memorably audacious debut feature from American-Iranian director Ana Lily Amirpour. Read more »

empire-tv-review-fox

Anwen Crawford

Rise of an Empire

Watching Empire, I wondered why there haven’t been more television shows about record labels, the music industry being the cesspit of venality that it is. Forget TV dramas about police departments and hospital wards – a show about a record label comes with all that conflict, plus outfits, plus songs. Read more »

video-undefined-22D54AFA00000578-784_636x358

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Insufferable assholes and grown up Girls

Yes, our girls are growing, learning, discovering. But all they’re really discovering is how toxic and unheroic they are, and how to use that to their advantage. They’re not going to grow out of their asshole tendencies, because they are actually assholes. Read more »

agent-carter-7683

Danielle Binks

Agent Carter and the future of the female superhero

Agent Carter has been described ‘a Triumph for Women, Marvel and TV,’ and heralded as an important new chapter in comics culture. If this supposedly groundbreaking new show fails, does it spell doom for the future of female-led superhero franchises? Read more »

2011 Jesse Knish Photography

Katie Williams

Pilgrimage to San Francisco: Power and Privilege at the Game Developers Conference

Attendees talk about the annual pilgrimage to the Game Developer’s Conference with the same reverence as a child’s first trip to Disney World. It’s the Magic Kingdom for adult nerds. The weeks leading up to the conference are full of discussion about which parties to attend, and how best to make an impression on people who could be useful in furthering your game development career. Read more »

jakobson0052

Katie Williams

Storytelling vs. interactivity: What makes a highbrow game?

What makes a game ‘highbrow’? We don’t have solid criteria for deciding conclusively which games are masterpieces, and which are just dumb, explosive fun. Read more »

ss_f6a450fbf737eb04c58b973f72e8817bb2b50285.600x338

Katie Williams

Brain Candy: Are game jams diluting the potential of video games?

In a world where YouTube gameplay videos narrated by hollering amateurs hold as much clout – if not more – than professional game critics, I worry that developers may be swayed to choose an easier, unimaginative, and more vacuous path to success. Read more »

16475519129_bb489cf4ce_o

Jane Howard

Creative Space: The secret power of community theatres

Theatre is inextricably tied to space, and the best theatre spaces become more than buildings. They become communities of like-minded people: of artists and of audience members, intermingling their ideas and their lives. Read more »

Tessa Waters stars in Womanz

Jane Howard

Fringe Feminism: Women, comedy and performance art

Taken together, the work of these female comics and performers loudly proclaims that their ideas about gender, femininity, performance and comedy are not diametrically opposed. It is because of their performance backgrounds that their shows are hilarious, not in spite of them. Read more »

Before Us_3

Jane Howard

Stuart Bowden’s Unfamiliar, Universal Worlds

It’s hard to classify the work of Stuart Bowden. His one-person storytelling theatre works are at once hilarious and melancholy. They exist in a particular space of fringe theatre: intricately crafted stories built for small rooms & small audiences, they lift and rise that audience, gathering us all up in the magic of stories & the closeness they can breed. Read more »