When you think of improving students’ reading comprehension skills, do you ever consider graphic novels and comics as handy instruction aids? If not, you should.
The common cliché is that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but it’s absolutely true that students who are having difficulty comprehending a rigorous text may benefit from visual input that reinforces the characters and themes. With a graphic novel or comic, students can look at how the artist illustrates a character’s actions or depicts the central theme through the use of colors, textures, text boxes, frames, and camera angles, as well as how he uses these elements to highlight the author’s words. They can then make visual connections between these elements and within the story itself. That, combined with new vocabulary and effective note-taking can lead to improved comprehension overall.
Graphic novels and comics are also good, visual ways to examine literary elements such as plot and tone, as well as understand the nature of heroes and villains. Many classic works have been translated into graphic form, and these can be used to supplement other instructional techniques in the classroom to bring the main points home. In the visual format, too, it is easier to identify who is the hero and who is the villain than it is in a large body of text. Thoughts and actions spring to life by way of thought bubbles, and interactions between characters range from page-filling life-and-death struggles to alienated characters each alone and impotent in their own isolated panels.
Comics can also be used as a comprehension tool once students have finished the original text; asking them to summarize the content by drawing their own graphic representations ensures that they have absorbed the material properly. Drawing also reinforces comprehension and retention by adding a kinesthetic element to a visual exercise. According to the National Centers for the Teaching of English, we need “to teach lessons with strategies that allow students to process information through multiple modalities. The more ways we teach, the more likely we reach our students and hone their ability to learn.”
 Wilder, Phil. (2016). Teaching with Multiple Modalities. Retrieved from http://www.readwritethink.org/professional-development/strategy-guides/teaching-with-multiple-modalities-30101.html
For additional information about the importance of graphic novels in learning to read, check out this article from the February 27, 2020 edition of The Washington Post.