Watchmen Illustrator Explains Why Graphic Novels Get Children Reading

With youth literacy always finding its way into academic conversation, many have turned to graphic novels and comics to help bridge any gaps they still struggle to close among the reluctant readers in their communities. While the medium is still breaking into the academic world as a valid literary format, Dave Gibbons, illustrato of the best-selling graphic novel Watchmen, believes "now more than ever, young people are keen to embrace more visual mediums." 

In an interview with the Times Educational Supplement (TES), a UK publication aimed at school teachers, Gibbons explains that the "pictorial qualities and cinematic structure of graphic texts have a particular attraction to young people. Graphic texts have visual appeal, not only on the covers but on every page and every panel, attracting the reader’s attention and propelling them forward through the narrative."

In order to support his strong views on using graphic novels in the classroom, Gibbons has been working as a series editor on Oxford University Press' Project X Origins Graphic Texts. This project is a series of classic stories and poetry redesigned in a new format to help develop children's comprehension of the material and encourage them to read. Through his experience consulting teachers for this series and from feedback provided on books being used in schools, Gibbons has narrowed down the main attractions of graphic novels for young readers to four main points:

1. Students embrace it as a different kind of text

Young readers are naturally curious, and the variety of stimulation provided by graphic novels provides a platform for endless amount of interesting contextual and visual analysis without the insecurity of the students becoming bored including panel angles, color palette, character interaction, and what is shown versus what is told.

2. Comics are an art that anyone can participate in

Reading traditional texts brings about several triggers for stress including the inability to comprehend and therefore discuss the text as well as an insecurity revolving around an individuals personal written skills when asked to document their thoughts through essays or exams. Comics are a free-form medium that allow students to break through insecurities they may have about the content and open them up to create deep and thoughtful interpretations.

3. Excitement about a series encourages students to continue reading at home 

Because comics can be read digitally, they are able to take back some of the 15 hours spent online per week by the average child and redirect that time to reading.

4. Graphic novels work as a gateway to different types of texts

Texts that used to seem "boring" or "difficult" in the past are often seen through a new light once graphic novels are introduced in a classroom. The stigma around traditional texts often gives students a negative impression prior to ever picking up the text, and graphic novels have the ability to expose children to the classics in an appealing way that encourages them to want to read the original stories.

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