the other, marginalized cultural groups
for whom the new medium of comic art,
made accessible by revolutions in printing
and distribution technologies (Hajdu,
2010; Jones, 2004; Ynostroza, 1978) first provided expression on the national stage.
Overview of Articles by Grouping
I wondered how and to what extent the medium of comics is used in elementary and secondary school classrooms. In 2013 I began a literature review of the past decade of scholarly research of the use of comics and graphic novels in teaching and found over two dozen articles in peer-reviewed journals detailing empirical studies. While there is some overlap of content, particularly in a foundational study like Norton’s (2003), I have divided the articles into four groups by their area of central focus: 1) Attitudes toward comics; 2) Places where comics literacy is valued/practiced, in and out-of school; 3) Comics and linguistically and culturally diverse students; 4) Multimodal and semiotic qualities of the comics medium for teaching.
Botzakis (2009, 2011), Holser and Boomer (2011), Mathews (2011), Moeller (2011) and Norton (2003) are concerned less with the processes of meaning-making in the limited, traditional sense of reading and writing English texts as they are with comics’ influence on the lives and outlooks of those who engage in reading comics. Norton (2003) in her study of children reading Archie comics, serves as a bridge to the second grouping of articles that evolved during my analysis. Norton is interested not only in the emotional and motivational impact the comics have on readers, but also the context of readers’ literate practice, the space where such activity occurs. Now, this may not be a physical space in the usual sense.
Norton discovered a community of comic book readers that existed beyond the established bounds of sanctioned home and school practice, and her work points to the second grouping of articles in this review. This
other space is
considered by Bitz (2004a,
2004b), Hughes, King, Perkins, and
Fuke (2011), and Sabeti (2011, 2012, 2013), who harness students’ love of comics for pedagogical purposes.
The researchers in the third grouping have demonstrated the value of using comics to teach linguistically- and culturally-diverse students. Chun (2009), Danzak (2011) and Hecke (2011) employed comics to help their English language learners. Ranker (2007) used comics to engage ESL students in meaningful social interaction around literary texts in their target language. Smetana, Odelson, Burns and Grisham (2009) and White (2011) reported how comics helped increase reading comprehension in students with hearing loss. Students with diminished cognitive function responded positively in their work with comics and graphic novels (Gomes & Carter, 2010).
The fourth grouping of authors, Connors (2013), Dallacqua (2012), Pantaleo (2011, 2012, 2013a, 2013b) and Yannicopoulou (2004) address the multimodal nature of the comics medium, its unique semiotic character, and the ways students construct meaning as they read and create comics texts.
Since 1993, Mike Phoenix has been employed at St. Louis Public Schools as an English Teacher, Professional Development Manager, and, currently, a Computer Literacy Instructor. He holds a BA in English from the University of Oregon, an MFA from SIU-Carbondale, and is working towards his Ed.D at UMSL.