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Pictures and visual literacy | class #5, spring 2017

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The next adolescent lit class (February 28, 2017) focuses on visual literacy: pictures in young adult literature, in works of both fiction and nonfiction. The prompts below address the role of these books in the classroom; you might also respond to the interplay of text and pictures (or wordlessness), or to whatever engages you most about these books with pictures.

Two picture books

  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan (Scholastic, 2007)
  • The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sís  (Farrar, 2007)

Three graphic novels

  • Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang (First Second, 2013)
  • This One Summer by Mariko Tamiki and Jillian Tamaki (First Second 2014)

Though not the typical purview of adolescents, sophisticated picture books such as The Arrival and The Wall offer rich rewards for readers/viewers with an experienced eye. Consider prior knowledge older students can bring to these works and connections they might draw, as well as new information or perspectives to be gained through their exploration.

While teens have been devouring graphic novels, or comics (as Gene Luen Yang calls all such works) for years, these works are now enjoying a surge of interest and attention from critics and educators, winning awards and finding their way into high school classrooms. How might students learn from these texts? Should they be paired with more traditional texts to be meaningful, or can a graphic novel study stand alone? Common Core Standards require students to be able to “Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse formats, including visually” (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7).  How important is visual literacy for our students?

Lauren Adams About Lauren Adams

Lauren Adams teaches English and ELL at Natick High School and adolescent literature at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Formerly a Senior Editor for The Horn Book Magazine, she regularly contributes book reviews.

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Comments

  1. There were no words in this graphic novel. No dialogs. No written sentences. No words. But, as I realized throughout my read, they weren’t needed. The mesmerizing art was enough. It was a fast-read. I don’t think I’ve even spend thirty minutes to get through it. The story was poignant and I loved how realistically it portrayed immigrants and how metaphorically and fantastically the author drew the world-building and settings. Aside for the graphics and settings, what I loved most was the fact that, not only we could see the main character’s experience at traveling and changing completely of surrounding, but also the people that he meets in his way and that give him some support. It was breathtakingly captivating.

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