Published on March 16th, 2015 | by Laura Giunta0
5 Ways Librarians Can Include Comic Books and Graphic Novels into this Year’s Summer Reading Club
Comic fans rejoice! This year’s Summer Reading Club children’s theme is “Every Story Has a Hero,” providing the perfect opportunity for children’s librarians to include comic books and graphic novels into their programming and collections.
Here are five ways you can incorporate comic books, graphic novels, and geek culture into this year’s Summer Reading Club:
1.) Teach a “Make Your Own Comic” Workshop:
Providing an outlet for creativity is an excellent way to get children excited about comics and graphic novels, as well as eager to participate in the Summer Reading Club. Combining creative writing and art, a “Make Your Own Comic” Workshop can be tailored to all ages, from elementary aged children to young adults.
Depending on your library’s budget and resources, you can approach such a workshop in a variety of ways. Libraries may consider hiring a local artist, art teacher, or indie comic book artist to lead a workshop for children, but librarians may also consider teaching the program themselves.
Children can work from scratch or librarians can provide templates with a variety of panel layouts (I have provided a few templates below to get you started). Children’s librarians can provide a basic overview of the components of a comic book, including terminology like panels, gutter, and speech/thought bubbles (sometimes called balloons), as well as go over the main elements of storytelling (characters, plot, conflict, setting, etc.). Reading with Pictures provides a diagram of comic book terminology that can help librarians unfamiliar with the terms, which you can find here.
Libraries with the facilities and tech know-how can also consider having children render their comics digitally. While having sophisticated paint software like Corel’s Painter Essentials 4 does help, even using a combination of Windows Paint, Microsoft Office Publisher, Microsoft Word, and hand-drawn art can still work. For example, the layouts I provided above were all made fairly easily using the autoshape option on Publisher, which also provides shapes for speech and thought bubbles; a similar shape option can also be found on Microsoft Word. Children can then create their pictures using Windows Paint or, if a library has a scanner, draw them by hand. Finally, children can paste their pictures into the layouts they create on either Publisher or word, adding the speech balloons, narrative boxes, and title.
When the comics are complete, librarians can scan the children’s comics in to show on your library’s website or Facebook page. If your library doesn’t have a scanner, librarians can also consider taking pictures of the comics to upload instead.
2.) Create Comic Book Decoupage Art
While creating their own comics is one creative way children can be inspired this summer, Comic Book Decoupage is another way children can creatively engage with this year’s Summer Reading Club theme. As with the “Make Your Own Comic” Workshop, librarians can either bring in an art programmer or art teacher to do the program or they can run the program themselves.
Decoupage is the art of decorating an object by covering it with cut-outs, usually from colored papers or magazines. The cut-outs are then covered in varnish to give it a glossy, painted-on look. Almost any object can be transformed using decoupage, from small household items like vases and bowls, to fashion accessories like belts, bangles, and shoes, to larger objects, including furniture. If you are unfamiliar with decoupage, a how-to decoupage tutorial can be found here. By using comic books and comics as the main material for decoupage, children will be able to create a unique, customized object featuring some of their favorite comic characters.
Materials can be gathered in a few ways. Librarians can find old comics being sold fairly cheaply at their local comic book store for the project or, if the thought of tearing up old comics breaks your heart, librarians can consider using the comic strips found in the newspaper as material or using damaged graphic novels their library intends to discard. For elementary school children, librarians can ask children to bring in simple objects like old bowls, cups, and jars from home for the project, or your library can provide these items for them. For young adults, libraries may provide something more complex, including fashion accessories like bags, shoes, or belts, or, alternatively, librarians may ask teens to bring in something they would like to decorate using decoupage.
Once the project is complete, children will be able to take home a fun comic-book inspired work of art that can also be used practically in their daily lives.
3.) Host a Lunch Lady Lunch Party
The artwork for this year’s Summer Reading Club theme is done by Jarrett Krosoczka, author and illustrator of the popular graphic novel series Lunch Lady, making this summer an opportune time to host a Lunch lady Lunch Party for the children at your library. The Lunch Lady series has a wide appeal because of its humor, fast-paced action, and graphic novel format, and therefore can be engaging to both avid and reluctant readers alike. As such, the audience for a Lunch Lady program can be similarly broad, ranging from Grade 2 to Grade 5.
The program can be structured in several ways. As a book discussion, children can be asked to read any of the Lunch Lady books or librarians can select a title from the series to read. While some librarians may want to start with the first in the series (Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute), others may feel comfortable choosing a newer title from the series, as the continuity from book to book is minimal.
For lunch, libraries can either provide lunch (pizza is always an easy choice, but librarians can also consider sandwiches, tacos, or any sort of lunch food) or ask children to bring in their lunches and provide snacks and beverages. If your library has a kitchen facility, librarians may also opt to design the program as a food program rather than a traditional book discussion, in which children will be making their own lunches. Librarians can either lead the cooking lesson or they may consider hiring a food programmer to teach children how to prepare food for lunch.
In addition, Random House conveniently provides an event kit for Graphic Novel programs, featuring Lunch Lady along with popular Random House graphic novel heroes like Squish, Babymouse, and Stone Rabbit. They also provide a Lunch Lady Fill-In Comic that children can work on.
Lastly, if your library wants to splurge this summer or for schools having summer programs, librarians and educators may also consider inviting Jarrett Krosoczka to their public library or school. Krosoczka has several programs listed for school visits, including “Lunch with the Lunch Lady Guy.”
4.) Add Some Superhero-Themed Graphic Novels to Your Collection
Besides the aforementioned Lunch Lady, there are plenty of other superhero-themed graphic novels you can add to your collection for this year’s Summer Reading Club. While many of the popular Marvel and DC comics and graphic novels tend to be aimed at teens and adults, there are some all-age comics that feature the popular, mainstream superheroes. Consider the hilarious, kid-friendly work of Art Baltazar, such as The Superman Family Adventures and Tiny Titans, which feature DC’s Superman and Teen Titans respectively. For Marvel fans, librarians can order the graphic novel compilations of all-age comic book series such as Marvel Universe Avengers Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Marvel Universe: Avengers Assemble.
Beyond Marvel and DC, there are several other graphic novels featuring superhero-themed stories. Such titles include Dan Santat’s Sidekicks, Ben Hatke’s Zita he Spacegirl, Dave Roman’s Astronaut Academy, Jeffrey Brown’s Star Wars: Jedi Academy, Eleanor Davis’s Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook, Jennifer L. Holm’s Squish, and Mike Maihack’s Cleopatra in Space. All of these would make excellent tie-ins to the Summer Reading Club theme, “Every Hero Has a Story.”
5.) Organize a Graphic Novel Book Discussion
Once you’ve added some new graphic novels to your collection, you may want to consider hosting a graphic novel book discussion. While you may choose from some of the titles listed above, ALSC provides a list of graphic novel recommendations broken down by grade ranges.
Librarian can also consider choosing a traditional prose novel and its graphic novel adaptation and have children compare and contrast the two. In recent years, many classics and popular children’s literature have been adapted into well-received graphic novels. For example, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, The Red Pyramid and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, Coraline and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, and Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer all have graphic novel adaptations.
If the children in your book discussion have a broader grade range and varying reading levels, librarians may also consider having a more general book discussion rather than choosing a specific title. This gives children a greater freedom to read a book that interests them (rather than feel obligated to read an assigned book), but still allows them to have some sort of guideline. At the book discussion meeting, children can each share with the group the book they read, providing them a chance to recommend a title to their peers. For general discussion, librarians can ask children what common elements graphic novels share with one another and also compare and contrast them to other storytelling mediums, such as traditional prose novels and film.
For games and activities during the book discussion, children can be asked to create their own superhero (I have provided an activity sheet, made using Microsoft Word) or design their own superhero mask (I have provided a template for younger children, made using Microsoft Publisher and Paint; older children may want to work from scratch). Librarians can also consider combining the book discussion with a “Make Your Own Comic” Workshop or taking elements from it and incorporating it into a shorter craft for the program. Pictionary is also a fun way children can learn how to express an idea using illustrations only. A modified version of Pictionary can also include asking children how to express not only objects, but emotions (happiness, sadness, anger, fear, excitement, etc.) through illustration, as many graphic novels rely on illustrations to convey feelings.
Librarians may also want to consider a graphic novel book discussion as a program for special needs children this summer, particularly children with autism, as well as children who are English-language learners. As Scholastic notes:
“Graphic novels can dramatically help improve reading development for students struggling with language acquisition, including special-needs students, as the illustrations provide contextual clues to the meaning of the written narrative. They can provide autistic students with clues to emotional context that they might miss when reading traditional text. English-language learners will be more motivated by graphic novels, and will more readily acquire new vocabulary and increase English proficiency.”
A graphic novel book discussion not only ties into the “Every Hero has a Story” theme, but can help bridge the gap between struggling readers and stronger readers, as graphic novels often appeal to both.
Share Your Ideas!
Have any ideas for this year’s Summer Reading Club? Make sure to share your ideas in the comments on Facebook!