Graphic novels a gateway to improve student literacy?

Instead of talking about “Romeo and Juliet” or “Hamlet,” the conversations in one high school English course center on Batman and other comic book characters.

The themes are the same. The Whiteland Community High School students debate the motives and morality of the characters. They discuss the obvious and hidden themes of novels and what they say about past and present-day society.

But a typical English course bases the conversations on the works of William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. Jeff Clawson’s graphic literature class students prepare for class by reading Frank Miller, author of the Batman graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns,” and Mark Miller, author of the Marvel graphic novel “The Ultimates.”

Whiteland first offered a graphic literature course after Clawson proposed it four years ago.

Seniors who take the course can earn an English elective for either the Core 40 or academic honors diploma, and so far more than 400 Whiteland students have taken the course.

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