Author Biographies

Katherine Suender is an award-winning ELA and art teacher and a volunteer for refugee students through Bethany Christian Services. As a doctoral student at Western Michigan University, she is interested in pursuing research related to increasing literacy for special populations. Her current focus is on English learners.

Susan V. Piazza is Professor of Literacy Studies and Interim Department Chair for Teaching, Learning & Educational Studies at Western Michigan University. She is Co-Principal Investigator on a five-year US Department of Education grant focused on improving literacy and language outcomes for multilingual and emerging bilingual learners.


This article provides a synthesis of current research and theory that makes a case for using graphic novels to improve adolescent literacy achievement through multimodal, equitable learning opportunities for English learners (ELs) while meeting the required English Learner Proficiency Standards (ELPS). Supported by multimodal theory and culturally responsive teaching (CRT) approaches, research shows that graphic novels are inspirational teaching tools for adolescent ELs to engage more deeply with reading and writing. Specific recommendations for classroom use of graphic novels include a focus on a) motivation and engagement, b) discussions, c) visual information, and d) multimodal composition. Educators can make use of strategic instructional practices with graphic novels to increase overall literacy success for ELs and adolescent learners in general.

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