We’re All Hooked by Katherine Sokolowski
Graphic novels. They are a staple in most classroom libraries. In my classroom they are the single most circulated section of the room. Three walls of the classroom are covered in books. Tucked in the back in one section of the book shelves are the graphic novels. Most often, they look like this:
Book shelves half filled, even though they were full to bursting just a few weeks ago. Many of the graphic novels will spend weeks off of the shelves, even though they might only take days to read. These are the books that are passed hand to hand in my room, only to be returned when all the friends in a group have read it and discussed.
I asked my students why they love this format so much? Here’s what some of my fifth graders had to say:
Graphic novels are great for me because I understand the book better. The speech bubbles make me see who is talking and I can follow the conversations.
I love graphic novels because the illustrations make me feel like I am living the story. I can visualize the setting and characters in a way that is hard for me with a novel.
Graphic novels make it easier for me because I understand what the author was trying to describe. Also, most are short and that makes me finish faster.
Reading graphic novels was the first time I felt like everyone else as a reader.
That last comment is not from this year’s class. It was from a class several years back. A student came in as a non-reader. So behind, there were no books I had that she enjoyed. One day I saw a book in the Babymouse series at the bookstore. I purchased it and showed her when I got to school the next day. It was still too difficult, but the illustrations helped her decode the words and figure out the story. She reread that book several times until I purchased more. I’m 100% convinced that Jenni Holm and Matt Holm are the reason she grew so much in our year together. While not at grade level when she left my class, she had made significant progress and, most importantly, felt some success as a reader. I owe that to graphic novels.
Looking over the reading records from my seventy fifth graders this year, I can find several favorite graphic novels to share with you all. I’m sharing those titles below in the hopes that you might find a few to expand your collection. All of these are in my fifth grade library, but the readability and interest level spans many grades. As always, check them out for yourself to see if they would be a good match for your students.
Disclaimer: Series such as Amulet, Babymouse, Lunch Lady, Bone, Smile/Sisters, and Babysitter’s Club were left off of the list because I assume most folks have already purchased them. If not, remedy immediately.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series is huge in my classroom. Taking the story of the spy, Nathan Hale, and having him share bits of history with the hangman and a British Solider was genius. My students cannot get enough of these books. I was a huge hero when I told them a sixth book was being written. Then my hero crown slipped when I shared that it wouldn’t be out until the spring. A must purchase series.
Awesome book. Astrid is learning about friendship and standing up for herself, all while becoming a kick butt roller girl. An important book for my students as they prepare to head to middle school. Fans of Smile, Sisters, El Deafo, and Sunny Side Up will love this.
Drama was HUGE at the start of the school year in my room. Many fourth grade teachers in my building don’t have it in their library, feeling the themes of the book are older. My students, as a result, couldn’t pass this one around fast enough. I love the story of Callie and how she owns who she is and doesn’t feel the need to change for others. She is an amazing role model to all of my students.
HiLo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed To Earth
HiLo was new at the start of the school year. This graphic novel follows the story of DJ, who is a little lost right now. He meets a new friend, HiLo, who has just come to earth from space, but has no idea why. This book made me laugh out loud at so many spots. My students and I like to greet each other like DJ and HiLo after reading this book, “AAAAH!”
This is a long graphic novel, but almost every kid I have book talked it to has taken it and read it. All you have to tell them is that it’s about a girl named Violet who lives in space. Her school has been eaten by space whales and she is trying to figure out what to do when you cannot find a new school, make new friends, and your dad goes missing in action while dealing with space whale diarrhea. Yep. They want to read it immediately.
I just found this book recently. I told my students it is about five girls at a summer camp… earning badges, making friends, and fighting crazy monsters. Oh, and add in a healthy dose of Girl Power. They took it and ran. I cannot wait to read the next one in the series.
Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure
This book feels like part picture book, part graphic novel. It follows the story of two kids on a field trip to the Empire State Building in NYC with their class. They get separated from the group and have to go on a journey to get back. Living in the middle of corn fields in Central Illinois, most of my students have never been to New York, much less ridden a subway. They were fascinated by this book and the many different ways to get around NYC.
Graphic novels are often said to help kids reading below grade level. I have absolutely found that to be true, but my kids reading above grade level love them just as much. What I really love about this format is watching my students come together to discuss them. I love that my boys are happy to read a book with a girl on the cover, even when it is bathed in pink. My girls are happy to read books about spies and violence. There are no “boy” or “girl” graphic novels in my class, just books that my students love and want to share. Nothing makes me happier than walking into my classroom in the morning, turning to my class, and saying, “Guys, I just read a new graphic novel last night. You are going to flip.” Hands shoot up, one student grabs the post-it pad, and they being to pass it around the room, recording their names for the waiting list. We are all hooked.
Katherine Sokolowski has taught for sixteen years and currently teaches fifth grade in Monticello, Illinois. She is passionate about reading both in her classroom and also with her two sons. You can find her online at http://readwriteandreflect.blogspot.com/ and on Twitter as @katsok.