Emily Simmons, ELA Teacher, Hernando Middle School
Numerous studies of adolescent reading preferences have found that fewer females than males are drawn to reading graphic novels. Why? Adolescent readers are diverse in gender and race/ethnicity as well as the disabilities they represent. Do main characters in graphic novels reflect that diversity? Has representation changed over time? Using a content analysis approach, this study examined the main characters in a set of recommended popular graphic novels for teens to determine the percentage of female protagonists and how that percentage has changed over a seven-year period. Additionally, the race/ethnicity and any disabilities of the female main characters were analyzed. The 70 recommended graphic novels and illustrated nonfiction for teens ages 12 to 18 used for the study were found on YALSA’s “Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens” lists from 2007 through 2013. Female main characters were found in 46% of the titles, with 24% of these titles having only female main characters while 22% had both female and male main characters; the female main characters represented three of five race categories identified by the U.S. Census Bureau and four of the fourteen disability classifications identified by IDEA.