Great Summer Reading Makes Great Autumn Teaching

This was our FAVORITE book of the summer!

Great Summer Reading Makes Great Autumn Teaching

September 4, 2015  |  Culture, Family, Teaching

This summer we decided to have our own private book club. Just the two of us. (You know, to do that summer romance people talk about. All of you bookworm nerd-cult educators know this is exactly how you bond with a partner when you’re both feeling overworked.) As parents of two toddlers, whatever we choose to spend valuable time reading has to be incredibly compelling and captivating if it’s going to be chosen over sleep – which is why we argue that reading relevancy is just as important for adults as it is for our students (especially those who are as stressed and under slept as new parents).

So, we found ourselves something super-spicy to read.

Cornelius has been a comic book reader since childhood. His first “big boy” bed was a Spider-Man bed, and to this day, Marvel’s Black Panther graces at least five of his t-shirts. If he could teach any middle schooler, Miles Morales, the new, Ultimate Spider-Man, would surely be his top pick. For me, my big brother welcomed me to comic book culture early on. The 1992 X-Men cartoon captivated us. I had an affinity for Gambit and felt kinship with Rogue. We sought Comic Book stores like most children seek ice cream trucks in July.

When I began teaching, I was too lost in the heaviness of teaching to grapple with comics and kids and graphic novels and reading.

Though I should not have been.

Many kids I’ve taught and currently teach have a primary visual intelligence. They can extract many context clues from a picture. My students learning English get to see concrete visual representations of the words they are acquiring. And my kids who are simply bored with books get a refreshing alternative. The Graphic Novel medium addresses all those issues, but it does not do so automatically. We still have to teach, and kids still have to read.

Cornelius has a few go-to strategies that he employs in lessons, small groups or conferences:

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So, when we were searching for our “summer romance” book, we hit Kinokuniya Book Store (New Yorkers, if you haven’t been there GO!). I came across a graphic novel that almost shouted at me from the bookshelf: Saga (Saga is NOT a kid book. It’s grown folks literature.).  An interracial, extraterrestrial couple with a small, bi-racial baby nursing at her mother’s breast. For a tired, at the moment, disengaged reader, I wanted to EAT this book. I showed Cornelius, and he responded, “oh yes! I’ve been wanting to read that!”

We bring the book home. I was finished in one hour. I researched the author, Brian K. Vaughan. He is a new parent. Of course. I researched the illustrator, Fiona Staples. She is a woman in an industry where few get the same opportunities as their male counterparts. I smiled, and this yielded three take-aways for my teaching of reading:

  1. People want to read books that have people like them in the front and center of the story.
  2. People want to read books by authors that know about their life experience.
  3. People want to read books with pictures.

Might I add: Graphic novels do not sell a story short: The Saga storyline involves an inter and intra planetary civil war, sexuality issues, gender issues – all told through the voice of a child. Lots of pictures does not mean less text complexity.

To kick of the year people, let’s do this! When stocking your classroom, do not forget books with pictures, compelling stories, varied people, and diverse experiences.



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