I write regularly about teaching and learning for popular educator sites like Edutopia and Cult of Pedagogy. I also write for Book Riot, where I offer diverse book recommendations and discuss raising an avid reader.
The Surprising Benefits of Student-Created Graphic Novels
By Shveta Miller, published on Cult of Pedagogy in 2019
There is no shortage of ways we all can benefit from teaching graphic novels. They engage reluctant or struggling readers, they are gateway texts for more complex literature, they build necessary background knowledge, and they develop visual literacy skills.
But another important reason to teach students to read, analyze, and create a graphic novel is that the form invites them to express hard truths about themselves and their experiences in a way that is different from what they can do with pure prose.
And perhaps a more surprising reason is for the impact it can have on a teacher’s relationship with students. Teaching the graphic novel to my high school English students wasa way for me to see that there was pain in my classroom and the role I might be playing in students’ difficult experiences.
A Good Talk We Should All Listen To
By Shveta Miller, published on Book Riot in 2020
Good talks we have with our children tend to happen in private. They might take place when we’re snuggled on a couch or while in the car, eyes occasionally meeting in the rearview mirror. A child might be on our laps, our breathing in sync, as we navigate big questions together.
When I was teaching in NYC public schools, I used to commute on the always crowded crosstown bus. One afternoon, I looked up from the high school essays I was reading and noticed a caregiver and a child reading a book aloud together. I heard them notice details on each page and laugh at the characters’ antics. How special, I thought. Such a private moment on display for all these tired commuters to hear or tune out. I felt honored to witness it.
Now I’m a parent having these talks at home with my own child, often wondering what territory we’re about to enter and how to keep the conversation flowing as long as possible. I can’t help but wonder how these talks go in other families. But I’m no longer a crosstown bus commuter, and I don’t get many opportunities to eavesdrop on the good talks children have with their trusted adults.
When Your Child Reads New Kid Over Your Shoulder
By Shveta Miller, published on Book Riot, 2020
Last year, I picked up Jerry Craft’s New Kidfrom the library. I had heard on a podcast that Craft uses inventive graphic novel devices to tell a story about middle schooler Jordan Banks transferring to a prestigious private school where he is one of the few students of color. Craft mentions that the story was influenced by his own experiences growing up.
I have taught my students how to critically read and analyze graphic novels, and how to incorporate unique elements and devices to tell their own compelling stories in graphic form, so I was particularly excited to check out New Kid for its potential as a classroom mentor text. And, having been witness to the experiences of students like Jordan as a classroom teacher, I imagined that reading New Kid would open students’ eyes to the possibilities of stories they could narrate in graphic form. I knew this was a book I wanted to read.
What I didn’t anticipate, however, was how reading this graphic novel to myself, on the couch next to my 2nd grade child, would spontaneously spark conversations about racial bias, stereotyping, and microaggressions.