Back to School with Comics: Using Graphic Novels in Education

September 3, 2013
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School season has begun again! As kids return to classrooms, it’s a great time to encourage literacy by using graphic novels. Using Graphic Novels in Education is an ongoing feature from CBLDF that is designed to allay confusion around the content of banned books and to help parents and teachers raise readers. In this column, we examine books that have been targeted by censors and provide teaching and discussion suggestions for the use of such books in classrooms.

At least one title is covered each month, and each article includes discussion points, teaching tips, and correlations to the Common Core Standards. Let’s take a look at the books covered so far…

Using Graphic Novels in Education: Persepolis

Persepolis1CoverThe autobiographical graphic memoir Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi was pulled from Chicago classrooms this past May by Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett due to “inappropriate” graphic language and images, specifically, scenes of torture and rebellion. Parents, teachers, and First Amendment advocates protested the ban, which was overturned. Persepolis is an important classroom tool for a number of reasons. First, it is a primary source detailing life in Iran during the Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. Readers of all ages get a glimpse of what life is like under repressive regimes and relive this period in history from a different perspective. It also begs detailed discussion of the separation of church and state. Furthermore, this is a poignant coming-of-age story that all teens will be able to relate to and serves as a testament to the power of family, education, and sacrifice. Keep reading…

Using Graphic Novels in Education: American Born Chinese

ABCcoverAmerican Born Chinese is a 2006 National Book Award Honor Book for Young People’s literature, the 2007 winner of the Michael L. Printz Award honoring literary excellence in Young Adult literature, the winner of the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album, and a 2007 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year. In this work, Yang skillfully weaves three seemingly independent stories of Chinese folklore, a teenager’s need to fit in, and adolescents’ balancing of their Chinese American heritage. While this book has not been banned — to a large extent as a result of the tremendous support it has received from librarians and educators — it has often been deemed inappropriate because of stereotyping. American Born Chinese is a brilliant weaving of cultural mores, expectations and racial stereotypes all battling assimilation and inherent justice, with ones’ need to fit in. It is a testament for all readers who struggle with developing and maintaining individual identities while fitting in with their larger more diverse communities. Keep reading…

Using Graphic Novels in Education: The Silence of Our Friends

CoverThe Silence of Our Friends has not been banned or challenged to date, so we highlight it for two reasons: First, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary on the March on Washington; and second, because this story then and now, powerfully relates the pain and ramifications of censorship and racism and the effects such silencing has on everyone. The Silence of Our Friends is a semi-autobiographical story told from the perspective of Mark Long, as a boy. It centers around civil rights incidents covered by his father, a television reporter in Houston, Texas, in 1968, following the Texas Southern University student boycott after the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was banned from campus. It ends with Dr. King’s assassination and the mourning of the larger Houston community as they marched in his memory that following Sunday. Keep reading…

Return to CBLDF.org for further coverage of graphic novels and how they can be used in classrooms to facilitate learning. Please help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work by making a donation or becoming a memberof the CBLDF!