Friday, December 17, 2010

Article note: On graphic novels for instruction and curriculum collections

Citation for the article:

 Downey, Elizabeth M. "Graphic Novels in Curriculum and Instruction Collections." Reference & User Services Quarterly 49.2 (Winter 2009): 181-188.

Read online.

Downey starts by stating that most of the LIS literature related to graphic novels looks at the form as either one for recreational reading, often for college students, or as historical and pop culture artifacts, in other words, stuff for academic courses. Personally, I wonder if the focus on college recreational reading reflects the fact that most of the LIS literature is written by librarians on college tenure lines and/or LIS professors. This is what comes natural in terms of writing topics. While there may be some who are not as familiar with the format, and as a result we often get objections and complaints about the form in terms of violence, sex, etc. (with many of the complaints unfounded and/or just reflective of certain less than enlightened interests), more educators are choosing to use graphic novels in the classroom as part of the curriculum.

Downey argues that "part of the academic library's mission is to provide materials and resources for future educators" (182). Academic libraries should carry graphic novels not only for pleasure reading or for art or for pop culture but also to meet the needs of educators who are likely to use graphic novels in their curriculum. In other words, future teachers and school librarians, if they are going to use them in their classrooms, should have access to them during their teacher training period so they can read them and become familiar with them. Yet some academic institutions, according to a study the author cites from Library Resources and Technical Services, are still found to be lacking. The study revealed "that a considerable number of institutions supporting library science or education programs aren't actually collecting graphic novels for teens" (qtd. in 182).

So what are some of the reasons to use graphic novels as part of an academic curriculum? First, Downey suggests you can use them as standalone text or as part of a unit using the graphic novels to make thematic connections better. Graphic novels can add an element of media literacy to classroom lessons. In addition, graphic novels not only are good for visual learners, but they also work in terms of multiple intelligences. According to Lyga and Lyga, "of the seven multiple intelligences identified by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner, three of them (linguistic, spatial, and interpersonal) can benefit from the use of graphic novels" ("qtd. in 183). Finally, graphic novels can help present, illustrate, and discuss broad social issues and lessons.

The article goes on to discuss some examples of graphic novels used in school classrooms. It also provides some suggestions for English teachers as well as ideas for college classrooms. Downey also includes and discusses collection development guidelines for librarians. What is helpful in this instance is the focus on collection development for curriculum and instruction support. The references list does include some book titles that may be helpful to some librarians as well.

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