Graphic Novels

Graphic Novels in Schools & Libraries

  • Schools & Libraries
  • Relevant Websites
  • Print Resources
  • How long have graphic novels been used in schools and libraries?
  • What are the benefits of GNs? Shouldn’t kids read real books?
  • Are there educational GNs? How have other teachers used them?
  • Why do libraries buy them?
  • Why do schools and school libraries buy them?
  • How do you find age-appropriate GNs?
  • How do you begin a GN collection?

Librarians, educators, and politicians can all agree on one thing: reading is absolutely critical to young people’s success in school and beyond. Graphic novels offer appealing stories and engaging visuals that reach out to reluctant readers, visual learners, and others who may shy away from traditional, print-heavy books. Yet graphic novels offer the same benefits of regular books: introducing young people to new vocabulary, “book language,” and stories and information to teach them about their world and spark their imaginations. In fact, Stephen Weiner reports that “researchers concluded that the average graphic novel introduced readers to twice as many words as the average children’s book”1 and Francisca Goldsmith points out that “the kind of abstraction that competent and comfortable text reading requires is also demanded by the graphic novel.”2

Fiction and nonfiction graphic novels can bring another perspective to classes in language arts or social studies. For instance, elementary school classrooms discussing current events could read Alia’s Mission (Knopf, 2004). This graphic novel tells the true story of Iraqi librarian Alia Muhammad Baker, who in 2003 saved thousands of library books from being destroyed during the war. Graphic novel versions of the accomplishments of Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, or Paul Revere, and the Viz Media-World Bank collaborative graphic novel series 1 World Manga3can bring valuable lessons to life. Indeed, there are even lesson plans for using graphic novels in classrooms, as well as print and Internet resources to assist school media specialists in developing educational graphic novel collections. (See resources.)

Graphic novels can be integrated into fiction and nonfiction collections in libraries or collected together as a format (much as videos, CD-ROMs, and audiobooks are often separated from books.) however, most librarians recommend maintaining separate collections of graphic novels by age group, since manga for adults can contain the same sort of violence, mature themes, sexuality, or language that are found in regular novels for adults. As Steve Raiteri comments, “if a preteen patron seeking Pokemon or Powerpuff Girls discovers mature material like Preacher or Palomar in the same section, this could lead to problems that are best avoided.”4

Allyson and Barry Lyga’s “Definitive Guide” to graphic novel collections in school libraries has numerous recommendations for age-appropriate titles. Just among manga there are great choices for every grade: primary schools might try titles like Akiko, Yu Gi Oh, What’s Michael, and Spirited Away; middle-schoolers like Dragon Ball Z, Inu Yasha, Mars, and Love Hina; and for high school libraries popular titles are Ranma ½, Fushigi Yugi, Oh My Goddess!, Naruto, and Fruits Basket.

With well-written stories, engaging artwork, and a range of genres, themes, and age levels, graphic novels are finding their place in libraries and schools worldwide.

1 Weiner, Faster than a Speeding Bullet, 61.
2 Goldsmith, 12.
3 Cha and Reid, 34.
4 Raiteri, 52. :: manga in libraries :: parents’ guide to anime
:: recommended graphic novels for libraries :: more recommended graphic novels for libraries :: comics especially for young adults :: teachers’ companion to manga :: graphic novel listserv for librarians, book industry professionals :: reviews of graphic novels for youth, teens, and adults, maintained by librarians

Lyga, Allyson W. and Barry Lyga. Graphic Novels in Your Media Center: A Definitive Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Co, 2004.

Raiteri, Steve. Graphic novels column in Library Journal (ongoing, published monthly).

Scott, Randall W. Comic books and strips; an information sourcebook. Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx Press, 1988.

Scott, Randall W. Comics librarianship; a handbook. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc,1990.

Weiner, Stephen. 100 Graphic Novels for PublicLibraries. Northampton, MA: Kitchen Sink Press, 1996.

Weiner, Stephen. 101 Best Graphic Novels: A Guide to This Exciting New Medium New York: NBM Publishing Co, 2003.