Reading Graphic Novel March by John Lewis

Reading Graphic Novel March by John Lewis

  • The Graphic Novel series: March displayed critical moments during the Civil rights era. 

  • John Lewis and the illustrator use the language and images to highlight the: Drama, Vocabulary, Comprehension, and Visual Literacy

The trilogy of the book March is a graphic novel written by the words of our former Congressman John Lewis. Making this a graphic novel illustrated shared the experiences from the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), sit-ins, punishments, integrations, and other civil rights activists such as A. Philip Randolph, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer Classroom, and a host of others. The benefits of this book, March, in graphic novel form is that readers can see the joy, sadness, danger, and humanity of what the individuals experienced. Lewis leaves the pain and suffering in this book as well as the triumphs. You learn how his “good trouble” inspired other individuals to speak against the injustices that occurred to Black Americans. The humanity of this book was real where one could see the children who were hosed down, the police officers who lied in their offices, and the leaders who spoke to the United States President. The participants in the real life story were speaking out to become a part of America’s dream and freedom is what they demanded.

Below are a few examples on how a teen can comprehend the graphic novel March.

Graphic novels rely on the artwork to tell the story. When the author explains a type of action or scene, the artwork compliments. Graphic novels provide less words but more visual symbolism. Your eyes control what you are comprehending along with the words.


Graphic novels have word balloons, and sound words and motion. “Lines going diagonal indicate movement. When we see lines moving horizontally we feel safe because,” Molly Bang. If illustrations are close to the ground, then the reader visualizes a sense of stability. However when things move up, we feel like we are flying and moving away from the ground.

In Book One from March many of the boxes were horizontal. This is because the authors were sharing the back story of how John Lewis gathered the confidence to speak out. Additionally, the illustrator used full pages to demonstrate a new setting or a transition. There were very few diagonal lines and many of characters and objects flowed left to right. The dramatic scenes  occurred when John Lewis and other activists were thrown in jail. Dramatic scenes included slanted lines, and even hands twisted around the jail bars.



Visual artists use icons to illustrate their idea. If the icon is a car, dog, or cat, the reader has to determine the personality of the character, the type of car they want it to be. According to Scott McCloud, the icons he uses create concepts in someone’s head. When they read the picture they “give me life by reading this book.” Their understanding is becoming stronger because they are making a deeper understanding of the word clues and the visual cues correspond to it.

Example: Book Two March had multiple stories occurring. One story was John Lewis and the SNCC organizing in the 1960s, the other story was Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. This book’s point was to highlight the workings and actions of the sit-ins and peaceful protests. A pivotal story was displaying the March on Washington to get the attention to American citizens. John Lewis was able to speak, and in comparison so was Barack Obama because he was appointed the United States president. For the historical references, one can go back in time and view shape and size the radio, the 1960s model Greyhound bus, the corded telephone, and even the smoke from the violence. Even the faces of Dr. Martin Luther King and John Lewis were distinct, and one could see the anger and tensions on their faces from the illustrations. The frustrations and experiences of the student activists and many others were catastrophic, but they were still determined for a fundamental change. The words and images complimented one another to deepen the understanding of their human experience.


Word usage and word font size and font changes breathe additional life into graphic novels. Bolded text emphasizes text versus plain text. This bolded text is emphasized so the author can guide you to what they want you to know. There are also instances of italicized words. You might have to pick and choose which graphic novel can expand your vocabulary.

If you read March, Book Three, one should be used to the different vocabulary usages. Common words were Demonstrators, Revolution, Agitator, Equality, Arrests, Segregation, Communist, Democracy, Voting, and Nonviolent. There are many words that display the complexities of that time. There were men and women signing all throughout this graphic novel, and whenever there was singing the words became cursive. Even when they quoted spiritual text or had to narrate a page, the words were visually different. This book needed words to elevate the images, and the images elevated the vocabulary.

Visual Literacy

The artistic elements of shadow, perspective, color, shapes, and layout combine to create stunning images in graphic novels. Artists who illustrate these images take careful planning on. Why is visual literacy important? According to Jon Sciezska, children’s author.” Kids today are wired and stimulated in different ways—they’re more visual.” Children view images on their tablets, cell phones, computers, video games, and the natural world. Children are constantly exposed to images, but they need to understand how to analyze what is going on in the image. They need to be taught how to visually understand.-author experiences can be inferred from viewing the character and sizes, artistic relates to understanding with an underlying message. Graphic novels and comic books are another form of media intended for visual interpretation.

So if you want to read a historical graphic novel, March, I encourage you to read it with your young reader. Yes the words in this book are sometimes difficult to comprehend, and images are painful. However, this is a part of America’s story. It is a story that displays the pain from decades before and decades after. Don’t just read the words, utilize some techniques above and read the images to understand their perspective and experiences.

If you would like to read the Trilogy of March Click Here

Strategies to Improve Reading Fluency

Strategies to Improve Reading Fluency

Strategies to Improve Reading Fluency Having a reader who is struggling can take time and has ups and downs. Have you heard, “Th, theee, ddooor is re real?” “Today Reggie decid to have a fun day. They plae with evvveryy.” If this sounds familiar where your child stutters or mispronounces a word is considered fall under the umbrella of fluency.

The example above would refer to the accuracy of words where the reader could not pronounce vowel sounds and certain ending sounds. Being attuned to your child’s reading needs can make a tremendous effort on how to recognize strategies and books that meet his or her needs. When attempting to help a reader, fluency is a skill that encompasses how fast a student reads, how accurate he or she can say a word out loud, and even expression.

From ILA, Reading Fluently Does Not Mean Reading Fast  “Reading fluency is necessary for comprehension and motivated reading, having been described as a bridge between early and later reading phases. “

“Once that doorway has been opened, students can begin to access meaning even though they must also be taught vocabulary and comprehension strategies.”

A fluent reader has the ability to see phrases and says the phrases with ease, and recognizes how the punctuation makes the story more expressive. You can more information about reading fluency on Reading Rockets. Reading is complex and as a parent or educator, it takes time to see your efforts grow. I wanted to share with you a few strategies that could support your child to read more fluently. As always try strategies more than once, and turn if your reader does not show engagement, then I encourage you to make learning fun. 

Grade Level Words Create or Purchase a set of flash cards. Each week practice having your child read those cards out loud. Make it fun. For example, turn them into a game of concentration, tape them to the wall and give a reward for completing the given task. 

Use Technology to Reinforce Word Learning Mobile Applications and web applications can be used to reinforce and support the learning of words. Fluent and non-fluent readers need exposure to new words on a daily basis. So giving them a way to learn the word parts, word meaning, word sound, and spelling could be truly beneficial so that their fluency is stronger. 

Encourage Reading Aloud As we all know, a good book is hard to find. But by reinforcing reading time for at least 20 minutes per day can build the stamina to read more. Specifically, as a parent or guardian, you can be a model. For example, when you are reading your book, your child should be reading alongside with you. Or have your child read out loud while you are making dinner, driving him or her in the car, and of course before going to bed. Give positive words to recognize how you feel about their progress. 

Voice Recording Another fun way is to use your phone or an electronic device and to record the reader. This will give your reader the chance to hear themselves and to even repeat the reading if desired. You can have your child read an entire page, chapter, section, or paragraph of a book. If your child makes mistakes, just point them out. 

Radio or Television Listening When Listening to the Radio, Online Streaming, or watching the television listen for key vocabulary words that you hear. When you hear words, then speak out vocabulary. When there is a commercial or advertisement, take a break from the show and think of new sentences or share ideas.







How To Tell A Comedic Story & Love Literacy

How To Tell A Comedic Story & Love Literacy

I loved it when Mr. Clarence Lomax cupped his right hand around his nose and pointed towards the wall saying, “Mr. Lomax, to my office. I am going to call your mother.” At that moment he was taking me back to his days as a teenager at his school. I imagined brick walls painted white, and beige flooring that he trudged down towards the principal’s office. I thought of his six foot tall principal, dressed in a dark blue suit, with an abnormally long nose pointing at Clarence. Lomax’s story created images in my mind, and I wanted to know more so I could visualize other comedic moments.

Storytelling is an oral literary art form that provides messages and new ideas for audience members. Every day in some way, all people tell stories, and it is important to gather the right framework for the message. 

“We all are storytellers who have the ability to tell great detailed stories. Whenever I meet someone that says “I could never speak in front of people” or “I could never tell a great story” I tell them to think about the last conversation they had with the closet person to them. Speaking in a way that makes the person on the receiving end vividly visualize what you are saying is not as challenging as some may think. It’s all about first becoming comfortable then allowing people in your comfortable space,” explains Lomax.

Storytelling is a literacy framework that can shape someone’s understanding to love reading and stories1.  Storytelling gives listeners the ability to hear and see vocabulary, expression, story elements, and parts of a narrative. Storytelling has a message along with emotions and characters. It is an oral art that gives meaning to experiences and perspectives. With storytelling, it can be used as an entrypoint to help readers. I will share three examples on how storytelling can be connected to advancing a youngsters reading skills.

1. Details

When telling a story, it is best to know the details of why you are telling that story. Is the purpose of your story to inform, to entertain, to sell, or to persuade? Once the purpose is decided, then it is important to decide the emotion whether it is joyous, sad, furious, or more. Afterwards, give details and descriptions on what happens, or even what does an object look like or feel like. Clarence Lomax gave the example of selling a phone. He laughed and smiled to show that he was going to be funny. During his story he said, “We have this black, shiny, phone. It actually has two camera, and is about 6 inches long. It is pretty big, and you can even text on it.” He suggested that having details about the story helps the listener “visualize the story better.”

2. Visualize

Storytellers use hand motions, facial expressions, or even different voice intonations to give the listener the ability to see what is being spoken to them. If the teller has a really important moment within his or her own story, then the listener could imagine a relatable moment in their own mind. In this personal experience, students have the ability to retell what was spoken and even see how vocabulary was used within their own experience. As an example, Mr. Lomax provided a visual when he swiped his hands from left to right pretending to be his principal scolding young Lomax. Then he tilted his head towards the ceiling and slowly cried, “Why?” 

3. Sense of Story

Having a sense of story can reinforce a student’s reading comprehension. Reading comprehension is vital to a student’s understanding. Being able to comprehend is where a listener can explain the characters, setting, plot, beginning, middle, and end. A story can have simplicity or depth where the “the use of descriptive oral language, students are able to have an enhanced experience with literature.”

To learn about storytelling, visit your local library and see if they have connections to artists within your community. Visit the National Storytelling Network. Study your favorite actor and pick through their phrases. Connect with Clarence Lomax visit here.

1-Miller, S., & Pennycuff, L. (2008). The Power of Story: Using Storytelling to Improve Literacy Learning. Journal of Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives in Education,36-43.
How to Read Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

How to Read Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

  • How to Read Crown an Ode to the Fresh Cut, a modern-day story about a black boy getting a hair cut.

  • A picture book story for 2nd and 3rd grade readers.

Crown an Ode to the Fresh Cut celebrates the experiences of what it means to get a “Fresh Cut” in the barber shop. Barnes’ rhythmic language keeps the story flowing, and makes the reader understand what it truly means to get a haircut at a Black barber shop. Barnes even builds your imagination about the different characters in the shop and what they can be. This story opens the reader into another world and celebrates #Brownboyjoy.


Derrick Barnes provides a visual and auditory narrative of a young man’s visit to the barber shop. He provides details and vocabulary words that makes the story true to the story. When reading stories such as Crown an Ode to the Fresh Cut, here are some tips on how to engage with the story. This story lends itself to multiple skills. Below is a brief discussion guide.

1. Asking Questions

Keeping questions open-ended using “How, When, What, and Why. These questions can build dialogue. Example Questions: What was your favorite part? What was your least favorite? How did you feel when the boy described his experience? Describe 3 important experiences that the boy described. Why was the barber shop important to the boy?

2. Identifying Details

There are many ways to identify details. Since this story is a sequential experience. You can start by listing examples such as important words in the story. Descriptive Words slab of clay flawless blazing star intellectual Hair Words Dark Caesar trim locs cornrows.

3. Examples

Examples lend to thinking about what else happens in the real-world. What did [this scene] remind you of? Who is a tech CEO that you know? What else would you use x for? What makes you feel like a Hollywood star?

4. Imagery

The images and words rely on one another. Using the images to build understanding is a fun way to read the text in a different way. Review the colors and the images and read how you feel. Why some backgrounds have scenes and others don’t. What kind of artistic medium was used. (Watercolors, paint, crayon, etc) What mood were in on pages with the use of color. How did this page help you understand the meaning?   You can find the story here to enjoy. Please share your thoughts on this story.