Comics in Education Presents: English Reading Lists that Work -- Culture, Race and Identity
This is the first in a series of posts that are intended to give English educators some new ways of thinking about how to incorporate graphica into their curriculum. One way of making inroads with colleagues who are resistant to visual narrative in the curriculum is to show them how these works speak to, reinforce, support, augment, and otherwise work well with canonical literature dealing with similar concepts or themes. As you read these posts, please feel free to send me your ideas. I'd love to publish them on our site!
I like this roster of text choices, not only because the two novels and the choreopoem are written by women, but because the list will present students with engaging and challenging material. This is especially true of both Beloved and For Colored Girls and teachers would be well advised to ensure in advance that their students can handle the issues presented in these works.
I love the addition of The Silence of Our Friends, a semi-autobiographical work that looks at race relations in Texas circa 1967, with a white family from a notoriously racist neighborhood befriending a black family living in one of the the city's poorest wards. They come together when five black students are unjustly charged with the murder of a policeman.
The other graphic title I've included here was written in 2013 and was accorded numerous honors that included consideration for Graphic Novel of the Year. That's March, Book 1, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, who also happens to have illustrated The Silence of Our Friends!
Of course, the amount of time that you have with your students and the specific demands of your curriculum will decide whether you can take an approach as suggested by the above list. However, we shouldn't underestimate the extent to which 21st-century students appreciate a curriculum that makes sense to them, and seems to be put together with the express purpose of fully and authentically developing their understanding of a particular issue or theme.
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Dr. Glen Downey is an award-winning children's author, educator, and academic from Oakville, Ontario. He works as a children's writer for Rubicon Publishing, a reviewer for PW Comics World, an editor for the Sequart Organization, and serves as the Chair of English and Drama at The York School in Toronto.
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