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Interview: Monet Stewart on Graphic Novels in the Classroom

Cope Middle SchoolWhen my youngest daughter started 8th grade at Cope Middle School and we got the curriculum from her teachers, I was surprised by her English curriculum. The teacher, Mr. Monet Stewart, allowed students to include manga and graphic novels in addition to prose novels as part of the required outside reading assignments. I have personally been a supporter of letting kids read whatever they wanted as long as they read, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a teacher, at one of my children’s schools supporting the same thing. I asked Mr. Stewart if he would share his experiences with allowing comics and graphic novels in the his classroom.

GCfK: How long have you been teaching?

Monet Stewart: The 2014-2015 school year will be my fourth year teaching in my own classroom. Prior to this, I was an aide in a special education classroom for three years.

How long have you taught at Cope Middle School?

All 7 of my combined years in the classroom have been at Cope.

What is the ROAR program?

ROAR stands for Required Outside Additional Reading. Nearly all of the ELA [English Language Arts] teachers at Cope participate in some form of this. In my classroom, students are required to read either 1600 pages (non-honors) or 2000 pages (honors) a semester. For manga and graphic novels, students must read 4 of those pages to count towards 1 page of ROAR.

Why did you allow students to read comics and manga in lieu of novels?

Allowing students the opportunity to read comics or manga in lieu of novels helps give students the opportunity to buy in to a ROAR system more, and gives many students the time to get used to it. It also gives one less excuse for students who say they can’t find anything they like to read.

When did you start allowing students to read comics and manga in lieu of novels?

I adopted this option from my master teacher, so the next school year will be four years.

Has the option worked out so far?

The option has worked out well in my opinion. I don’t have huge percentages of students reading exclusively manga as much as I have students who will supplement a standard book every once and a while for variety.

Do you offer suggested reading lists?

I do not use suggested reading lists.

Have you had any complaints from parents about allowing comics over novels?

I have fortunately not had complaints from parents about the manga/graphic novel option. I believe that many parents are simply excited their student is reading!

Have any of your fellow teachers had complaints?

I have not had complaints from fellow teachers, but I have had teachers who do not allow their students to read manga or comics because they do not believe they are valid reading options.

How do you decide if a book is age-appropriate?

I don’t decide if a student book is age appropriate. Parents sign their student’s reading log and are expected to make sure their student’s book is appropriate for them.

Do you do anything to try to preempt any complaints and/or challenges?

The biggest way I avoid complaints is simply to have students or parents come and talk with me if they have issues or questions about the reading program, appropriateness of books, etc. I always appreciate when a student takes time to do this before an assignment’s due date as opposed to waiting until after an assignment is due.

Lori Henderson About Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!

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