Thursday, May 15, 2008

Graphic Novel Week--Learning to Read These Things

So, I have participated in Graphic Novel week because I think that these books are huge and important right now. I find them fascinating and I am pretty sure that we could do some amazing work with kids using these. I also think that this may be just the kind of book that those kids who have never bought into reading, may love.

But, I am not a reader of Graphic Novels. I have read a few--I am a huge Babymouse fan. I have read some great nonfiction GNs (To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel). But, really, I haven't stretched to many others. As I have been reading Mary Lee's reviews this week, I decided I needed to give them a better try. So I purchased HIKARU NO GO #1 after I read Mary Lee's review of it earlier this week. She said that three of her boys-who were very different readers-- were totally hooked. So I decided I had to see what made the series so addicting.

Well, I picked #1 in the series up last night and found that ML was right--it is Manga. It opens on the left side, you read from left to right, etc. Totally threw me. Wanted to take it back to the store immediately. I was talking to my friend and colleague Josie this morning--showing her the book, telling her how much I did not want to read it. We were trying to figure out why Mary Lee seemed to be able to read these, but we could not. (We know she is very smart but we thought that we should be able to figure out how to read books that her 4th graders were reading.) So, we emailed her to ask what her trick was. Here is what she said:

Slow down.
Read differently.
Spend time on the pictures.
Watch it like TV or a movie with subtitles.

Good advice, I must say. So, I tried again, listening to her advice. I think the "SLOW DOWN" and "SPEND TIME ON THE PICTURES" were the two things I was not doing. Slowing down is really not in my personality and I soon realized that I had just been speeding through the words and ignoring most of the pictures.

You will all be happy to know that I am now on page 41 of this book and am enjoying it a lot! There is really nothing about it that would have drawn me to it--but I put my mind to it and followed Mary Lee's advice. I think it was a turning point for me. I am pretty sure I am going to get through the book and I think I am going to like it. Then I think I will get through more Graphic Novels that are more complicated than the ones I have been reading.

I am writing this because I know there are a lot of us out there who are not yet comfortable with this medium. I am one of them. I am writing to share Mary Lee's brilliant advice--that seems very obvious, I know. And to tell you that it is worth doing. As adults, we get into reading the kinds of books we enjoy and are comfortable reading. As reading teachers, I always think that it is worth it to put ourselves in a position where our reading is hard--to experience what the kids often experience with new genres, etc. I think it is worth doing because it is a big thing and our students will be reading them. How can we recommend books and talk to our students about books that they love if we don't know them and have no experience with them? And people are talking about them and I hate to be left out of conversations about books!

But, what I am learning is that these books are pretty cool. A pretty interesting and different read. The most important thing I am learning is why people are so drawn to them. I am starting to understand and that is worth a post, I think!

I plan to add a few more titles with Mary Lee's guidance to my 48 Hour Read Stack!


  1. I have a lot of trouble reading graphic novels, and I think your post is right on the money. I'm a fast reader so the idea of slowing down is HARD. I'm glad you could take the lesson to heart and enjoy one of Those Books. I'm still working on it myself.

  2. My biggest "teaching miracle" story was with a fourth grade boy who had horrible reading skills. He read Dragon Ball Z graphic novels over and over and over, all through fourth grade, and thereby became a fluent and competent reader. The rest of my fourth and fifth grade boys got huge "boosts" from DBZ. As a teacher these days of sixth graders I struggle to know when and how to push them into other genres....

  3. Yay! I'm glad you kept at it, Franki!

    Amy -- one of those three Hikaru readers I wrote about earlier this week has finished the series through book eleven and jumped right into The Mysterious Benedict Society! He was the one who had been on a nonstop diet of Warriors for several months. That's MY teaching miracle this week: give them time and exposure to lots of books and they WILL come out on the other side of a long streak of series reading!


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