Pondering the mysteries of my Graphic Novel readers

For your enjoyment, I thought I would share with you some observations about the reading habits of my students. Maybe you will see some similarities or you can offer some insights from your experience.

1. My Graphic Novel corner is at the same time the messiest but also the most orderly of sections

On one hand, I have the most purposeful group of boys settling down at a table to read silently together. They make a beeline to the corner, quickly selecting their choice of book, and zoning out everything else around them.
On the other hand, the table in front of the graphic novel shelves cannot be seen by the end of sustained silent reading time, being heavily buried underneath at least two layers of books. It appears that this action might be an attempt to help the later visitors find the best books – peer-reviewed material already on display!


2. My most avid readers often choose not to take out the books

They will read them, return everyday to enjoy the same books over and over again, but will not take them out. I will suggest it and will be rebuffed.


3. One of the lessons that thoroughly engaged my students was a direct instruction lesson on how a Graphic Novel ‘works’

I based it on the information in this article:
Rudiger, Hollis Margaret. “Reading Lessons: Graphic Novels 101.” Horn Book Magazine March/April
(2006): 126-34. Print.

You could have heard a pin drop as I modeled the process and thinking behind reading one of these fantastic books. As an aside, I learned an important lesson once: you only have to teach two boys how to approach a Manga book and the whole school will know how to do it, too. I will not rely on this method to teach always but it certainly has been a bit of teaching magic.


4. Boys who read Graphic Novels all the time are seen as non-readers

The very boys who visit the library every single day to read are the ones whose parents ask me to recommend books because their sons do not seem to enjoy reading. This ‘not taking Graphic Novels out’ thing may be the cause.


5. Graphic Novels are not seen as serious reading but the readers themselves could not be more serious or reserved

A little boy in Grade 3 asked me recently about which Graphic Novels were my favourites. He clearly was waiting for my educated opinion. He listened, and then carefully weighed all his options and chose the one most likely to be enjoyed. No haste, just careful consideration of alternatives and a polite ‘thank you’.


6. The books are both highly desirable and well respected

I still keep in mind a piece of advice one of my mentors once told me about which books are essential for any collection. They are the ones that are in the worst shape, or are missing from the shelf. My graphic novels could be far more battered and very rarely will they go missing, yet I know they are essential.

These ninja books that defy all odds! Who knew there would be so much to ponder? Enjoy the rest of your day. 🙂

Elizabeth Ford
Lower School Teacher-Librarian
Margaret Donnelly Library

Crescent School, Toronto

3 thoughts on “Pondering the mysteries of my Graphic Novel readers

  1. Thank you so much for this insight to Graphic Novels. We have several for our school (grades 6-8), and I never quite understood the appeal. I purchased them (kicking and screaming) and am amazed at how popular they are. Boys and girls read them, check them out and always ask for the next book in the series. If you, or anyone else, has recommended titles for middle school readers, I would appreciate seeing that list! Great post, thanks!

    • Don’t you just love it when students cannot get enough of what you have in the library? We are lucky here in Toronto to have access to a great resource in the store, ‘The Beguiling’. They assessed our collection and made recommendations based on gaps and new material. Check out their page on library services. It makes me think that there might be a similar service near you?

      Another resource that could help you is the ALSC’s Graphic Novel Reading List which is organized according to the grade sections.

      Highlights of the fiction options from the collection that my Grade 6s enjoy are: Rust, by Royden Lepp, Stickman Odyssey, by Christopher Ford, adaptations of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and Kane Chronicles series. Graphic novels by authors Doug Tennapel, Raina Telgemaier, Dave Roman, George O’Connor are popular.

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