Recently I was asked to speak at the Artful Teaching Conference Putting Creativity Into Practice at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute. Thanks to Anne Kraybill (school programs manager at Crystal Bridges) and Hung Pham (arts integration specialist for the UA Razorback Writers Program). The conference focused on ways of integrating the arts in education. My lecture Teaching Through Graphic Novels focused on various ways graphic novels and other forms of visual narrative can be utilized in the classroom with applications ranging from developing literacy and visual skills, collaboration, analytical and critical thinking, and teaching a wide variety of concepts and disciplines outside the language arts such as understanding scientific theories, physics, psychology, mythology, and classical studies, as well as historical and contemporary events. Comics can be used to enhance learning, motivate younger and reluctant readers and introduce various technologies and multimedia applications. The interdisciplinary act of creating and constructing graphic novel content maybe used to develop not only literacy and media skills but also composition, rendering, computer, and research skills. My nonfiction, documentary graphic novel What Follows Is True...Crescent:The Baker Years currently in development utilizes many of the interdisciplinary approaches mentioned.
Graphic novels are one of today's fastest growing categories in book publishing. The scope and diversity of graphic novels has broadened in recent years to include much more sophisticated subject matter, including nonfiction, biography, literature, and compelling stories melded from on-the ground reporting and research from the world's latest war-torn regions.
Public schools are proving to be viable markets for graphic novels and with the advent of a more serious and ambitious body of nonfiction work, high school, middle schools, college and university librarians are bolstering their graphic novel collections. The latter half of the 20th century has experienced an alteration in the definition of literacy. The proliferation of the use of images as a communicant has been propelled by the growth technology that requires less in text-reading skills. Visual literacy has entered the panoply of skills required for communication in this century. Graphic novels are at the center of this phenomenon.