A+ for Mexico grant for graphic novels

Middle School students benefit from A+ for Mexico grant for graphic novels
The librarian at Mexico Middle School will do just about anything to attract students to the media center – and then get them to read books. She obtained a pet lizard, named Norberta, which students have become attached to since her arrival last year, and designed a cool casual reading spot. Media specialist Jennifer Strunk also wrote a grant to add graphic novels to the collection, one which was granted by the A+ for Mexico committee.
The grant application, entitled "Graphic Novels for Reluctant Readers," was awarded to Strunk last fall. She was able to purchase 78 novels with the $1,250 grant. Since that time, the novels have accounted for 42 percent of fiction books checked out of the library.
"The students have been reading the novels like crazy," Strunk said. "Students who have never wanted to come into the library have started reading our graphic novels, which have been checked out 1,052 times since last November."
Graphic novels are books which feature more drawings, similar to a form of a polished comic book with more text. The books provide more exposure to upper level vocabulary, with visual cues to help with the comprehension.
"Some of the graphic novels make the books the students' peers are reading more accessible," Strunk said. "For example, the classic novel Kidnapped is presented in several graphic novels, which have no stigma attached like a picture book or stepped-down novel might have."
Strunk said novels which are popular with the middle school age group, such as the Twilight series, are also being published in graphic novel format.
"Students who are not ready for a 400-page book, can read the book in graphic novel format," she said. "They enjoy reading about characters they already are familiar with from other sources."
Middle School Principal Deb Hill Haag, one-time media specialist at the school, is pleased with the success of the graphic novels. "As MMS strives to achieve our building reading goal, 'The number of students reading at grade level will increase 10 percent by the end of the 2012-2013 school year,' the graphic novels will serve as another resource for students to work on fluency and comprehension," she said. "Mrs. Strunk uses the novels to serve as another hook to get reluctant readers excited about book."
Strunk said she is an enthusiastic supporter of A+ grants. "Thanks to the grant, we have been able to develop a good base for our graphic novel collection," she said. "I encourage other teachers to write grants and apply when the opportunity becomes available."
Haag also is thankful for the grant program. "A+ is another testament of the support our community shows our students and teachers," she said. "MMS is extremely thankful to the program and its dedication to our schools."