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More Powerful than a Locomotive

Response to the YALSA article “More Powerful than a Locomotive: Using Graphic Novels to Motivate Struggling Male Adolescent Readers,” by Karen Gavigan published in The Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults.

Graphic Novels are the reluctant male readers cool older brother. They maintain their image while displaying a folded paperback in their back pocket. Graphic Novels are gateway books, sure shots to further literacy. They make reading cool and are re-shaping the way we motivate our disengaged male readers.

Gavingan’s article is based on her study of how a graphic novel book club affected four eighth-grade males. She found that by and large, graphic novels improved the participant’s level of interest and enjoyment in reading. Even an individual who stated, “I don’t like reading paragraphs” found that he was able to access images in order to understand vocabulary and context. The combination of images and text succeeds where print alone fails for many struggling readers.

After reading a graphic novel, many participants expressed interest in reading the original version of works such as Sleepy Hollow and The War of the Worlds. This is an incredible achievement for the visual reader. Even if they never “cross-over” to traditional print, they have found their reading voice. It would be interesting to know what books the participants read and how many were re-interpretations, manga, or new graphic novels. I am personally interested in new stories and voices for urban youth.

One example is a YALSA’s 2011 Top Ten Quick Pick for reluctant readers is Yummy: the Last days of a Southside Shorty. This incredible graphic novel works not only for its adept storytelling and illustrations, but for G. Neri’s intuitive knowledge and respect for a story told through the eye’s of a young male protagonist. He has a keen sense of urban youth culture and language without ever patronizing the reader. This is a modern day classic that whether or not it gets struggling male readers to hit the classics, it will fuel their interest in reading more.
See my review for Yummy here at The Hub.

— Marie Penny, currently reading Vaclav and Lena by Haley Tanner

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