Friday, December 16, 2005

Going Graphic : Graphic Novels in the Library

This is an article I wrote for the school web site. Much of the information was taken from past entries. I just want to preserve it in an online format.

Early this school year, the GS LRC thought of acquiring comic books. You read it right. Comic books.

This is a bold step for a school library considering the very traditional perception people hold on libraries in general. But, the GS LRC is not made from the conventional mould. Put aside its issues on library automation, the GS LRC boasts of a rich, up dated and well balanced print collection. It provides books and print materials that cater to its readers’ varied reading interests and different reading levels. Aside from supporting the curricular offering of the school through its collection, it also strives to encourage students to read for fun and recreation. Reading is, after all, not entirely a perfunctory endeavor.

Comic books or graphic novels are in trend these days because current research shows that it is an effective tool to motivate children to read. In a highly graphic world, comic books help young learners understand visual representations in a highly graphic environment. It presents these advantages for the child who is still learning to be (Lavin, 2000).

Assist Poor Readers. Comics and graphic novels are excellent tools for use with children and young adults with poor reading skills.

Connect with Visual Learners. As educators become increasingly aware of the importance of different learning styles, it is clear that comic books can be a powerful tool for reaching visual learners.

Develop Strong Language Arts Skills. Several studies have shown that students who read comic books regularly have better vocabularies and are more likely to read above grade-level.

Encourage Unmotivated and "Dormant" Readers. Teachers often use non-book materials to encourage reading. Comic books are an ideal medium to spark interest, equate reading with enjoyment, and develop the reading habit.

When building a Graphic Novels collection, there are policies to consider in selecting the ones that are appropriate to the needs and nature of growing children. It is vital that librarians collaborate with subject area coordinators and reading teachers in determining the graphic novels to acquire. Teachers and librarians must work together to create learning experiences that will merit the children’s reading of such materials.

Expanding Horizons

The recent author visit program held last Friday, December 2, 2005 at 2.30 p.m. in the GS LRC Storytelling Area is one example of this collaboration and learning experience. The GS LRC invited Dean Alfar and his better half, Nikki Alfar, for a session on graphic novels. Selected clubs from grade 5, 6 and 7 were the audience that afternoon. It was an interesting session, as well as enlightening.

Dean Alfar is a fictionist, playwright, businessman and comic book creator. He has eight Palanca Awards to his name, one of which is a recent award given for his novel, Salamanca. Nikki, on the other hand won the third prize for children’s fiction for her story, Menggay’s Magical Chicken this year

The guest writers presented a brief but comprehensive history of graphic novels; the different kinds and variety available in the market; the relevance of comic books in Philippine culture and the arts; and the hard work that writers and artists put into the process of creating a graphic novel. At the end of the session, the boys understood that the whole process is one that requires a lot of creativity, patience and perseverance. Dean and Nikki emphasized that above all the technical and production value, what matters is a good and well written story.

A graphic novel is a means to tell a story. The writer and the artist work closely together to achieve wholeness to the concept. It takes two to tango, so they say. In creating graphic novels, the writer and the artist must dance to the same beat with the guidance and the supervision of an effective editor who clearly sees the big picture.

Role Models

Winning literary awards left and right is just icing on their cake. They are real people, like you and me who lead normal lives. But two things set them apart from their contemporaries. They are willing to share their skills on writing to children and their genuine love for books and reading. Dean has these tips for the aspiring writer, artist and comic book creator.

1. Read
2. Read more and TAKE NOTES (my caps)
3. Know your grammar, master the words
4. Know the rules before you break them
5. Be prolific - produce consistently
6. Do not fall in love (with your work)
7. Expand your horizons
8. Be inventive
9. Join competitions, seminars and workshops
10. Keep a workbook, a journal or a blog

Aside from this, the Alfars are advocates in creating quality *grafiction that will eventually lead to raising the bar of comic books production in the Philippines. And they have been successful so far. Their grafiction, Siglo : Freedom won the critics approval. It was awarded by the Manila Critics’ Circle as Best Comic Book of 2004. Last Decemeber 10, 2005, Siglo : Passion, along with an anthology (Philippine Speculative Fiction vol. 1) and a comic book for younger readers (Project Hero) was launched in Fully Booked Greenhills. All are available in local bookstores in Metro Manila.

I was glad to have attended the launching last week. I did get good discounts, but the highlight of the evening for me was meeting three Xaverians, Andrew Drilon, Sean Uy and Joel Chua who contributed their story and art to Siglo:Passion, Philippine Speculative Fiction and Project Hero.

Come Januaray, the GS LRC, in coordination and collaboration with the Reading & Language Arts Dept. will launch its graphic novel collection. We may have our own preconceived knowledge on comic books. Some are good. Some may be otherwise. But as long as there are teachers, librarians, writers and artists, people who care enough to provide children with the literature that they will enjoy and learn from, half the battle for the campaign for a reading culture is already won.

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