« MTV on Prince of Persia | Main | A Persian Adventure »

October 13, 2008

:01 Talks to "Get Graphic"

One of the most exciting things about being part of a comics publisher right now is that we get to watch -- and help -- while teachers and librarians make graphic novels a part of their communities. 

We asked one of the programs we're working with, "Get Graphic!" to talk a little about the exciting things they're doing to make graphic novels a part of peoples lives. 


(Gene Yang talks to students at a program sponsored by "Get Graphic!")

Q: How Did “Get Graphic!” get started? What was the inspiration for creation of the program?

A: The library was searching for a way to partner with other community organizations in order to increase teen literacy. We were able to partner with a wonderful and diverse group of institutions including: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, State University of New York at Buffalo Libraries, Hein Publishing, Erie1Boces, Nioga Library System, The Buffalo News Next Magazine, WBFO, and the Buffalo Public Schools. The idea to focus on graphic novels was sparked by a desire to approach literacy advocacy using a new strategy. We were interested in meeting teens on their own terms and engaging them in reading with materials that they were already enjoying on their own.

Q: It's great that you had so many community organizations to partner with!  What was it about the graphic novel medium that made you and they all decide to band together and do this program?

A: We were all dedicated to finding a new way to approach the promotion of literacy with teens. We also wanted to engage teens with both educational and creative activities designed to increase literacy and lifelong learning. The graphic novel format seemed to be a natural fit for this as comics and graphic novels are wildly popular, but have not yet been accepted in the world of traditional education. Our school and library partners (Erie1Boces, Buffalo Schools, NIOGA Library System, and UB Libraries) felt strongly that graphic novels would be a valuable enhancement to traditional instruction presently offered in schools and well as a wonderful addition to contemporary library collections. Our cultural organization partners (Albright-Knox Art Gallery and WBFO radio) were intrigued both by the graphic novel as art form and as a way to reach out more emphatically to teens. Our business partners (Hein Publishing and The Buffalo News Next) felt that highlighting graphic novels would benefit the community both educationally and culturally. We were all motivated by the desire to enhance the lives of teens and their caregivers by introducing them to a new and exciting way to experience the world of reading. All the partners are eager and vocal participants in the various aspects of the Get Graphic! grant project.

Q: Have you had any interesting reactions from parents, teachers, etc., from introducing this comics-centered program?

A: We have certainly been surprised by the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from everyone who has heard about our program! When we began planning for the programs, workshops, and events we were simply hoping to engage the teen community and introduce them more fully to a format with which they may have already been familiar. When our events began taking place the positive response from the community was tremendous. We have had attendees ranging from 9 year olds to senior citizens. We have attracted attention from teachers, local artists, school administrators, school and public librarians, and organizations from outside of the Western New York area. Everyone who has been in contact with us has been interested in learning more about the project and has requested workshops, interviews, materials and more. Our graphic novel classroom instruction kits generated so much excitement within the educational community that we were forced to modify our kit distribution schedule to accommodate over three times the number of requests than we had expected. We are very pleased that our project has gone far beyond what we initially anticipated, and has captured the imagination of our own community as well as others.

Q: You’ve had a number of speakers, what about them have you and teens been particularly inspired by?

A: Teens and adults have been inspired by the accessibility of our guest speakers. Both Gene Yang and Art Spiegelman engaged the audience with such honesty that they created an intimate atmosphere that fostered open Q & A and unbridled eagerness to learn more about the comics format. One of our community partners, The Buffalo News NEXT Magazine, is written entirely by teens. They have shown great inspiration from our programs, going far beyond simply advertising our events. Over the 2007-2008 grant year they included a number of author interviews and informational articles about Get Graphic! in their weekly magazine.

Our Get Graphic! group has been very inspired by both our guests and the greater community as well. In our grant proposal we planned for five informational workshops for public and school librarians. We have thus far presented nine workshops to Librarians, with two additional scheduled. We have also, due solely to demand, presented six workshops to Middle and High school teachers with an additional one scheduled, and two workshops to SUNY @ Buffalo Library School Students, with an additional one scheduled. An October 2007 panel discussion “From Superman to Sandman” was so well received that we have begun planning two more panel discussions for the upcoming grant year. Perhaps the most telling of all is that the response has been so overwhelmingly positive that we are planning Get Graphic! activities to continue well past the June, 2009 grant completion date. Future plans include a Graphic Novel book fair with author presentations and/or discussion groups for all ages.

Q: The GG! program has a creative aspect, with teenagers encouraged to write and draw their own graphic stories. How is this going?

A: We began the process of teen graphic novel creation with a variety of programs during July and August 2008. The centerpiece of our Get Graphic! summer programming was an author talk and graphic novel creation workshop with Gene Yang. Both of these events, as well as our other programs, went very well and received a lot of support from both teens and adults in the community. In October we are welcoming Scott McCloud for an author talk and all day teen graphic novel creation workshop. Mr. McCloud’s visit will signal the beginning of our “big push” for the teen participatory portion of the Get Graphic! grant. The “Our World in Words and Pictures” project will allow the teens to submit 1 or 2 pages of their work to be included in a graphic novel that will be published by Hein publishing. We are also holding a cover art contest for which teens may submit their original artwork inspired by the “Our World in Words and Pictures” theme. One winner will be selected, and their artwork will appear in full color as the cover of the published teen graphic novel. The published graphic novel, along with the contributing authors and artists will be honored at a reception to be held in conjunction with the conclusion of the Get Graphic! grant in May, 2009.

Q:  “Multimedia Literacy” is a term that gets bandied about a lot nowadays when talking about how people interact with television, the internet, and graphic novels. How are you seeing this come out in your program?

A: Our Get Graphic! project has generated a tremendous amount of interest from teachers and librarians. When planning the Get Graphic! grant and activities we felt certain that we were constructing a project that would assist both teachers and librarians in serving the teen community. Now that we are more than half way through the grant, we realize how much we underestimated the enthusiasm with which the educational community would respond! We feel that this enthusiasm is a direct result of the relative “newness” of graphic novels and the way in which graphic novels present information in a “multimedia” format. The combination of text and pictures presents information in a more modern way than that of traditional literature and in a more interesting way for students. In addition, it reaches reluctant readers and those that may struggle with traditional text-only materials. The Get Graphic! grant gives teachers and librarians the tools to be able to speak directly to the way teens interact with the world today. Capitalizing on the popularity of graphic novels to reinvigorate traditional instruction has allowed teachers and school librarians to reach students with a multimedia format.

[visit the 'Get Graphic!' website]


The comments to this entry are closed.

My Other Accounts

Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 05/2005