From Roots to Flourishing Literacy: Using Picture Books and Graphic Novels in the Middle and High School ESL Classroom

Justine Busto, English, East Mecklenburg High School

Final Unit (PDF)  Implementing Common Core Standards (PDF)


This curriculum unit addresses the fact that many immigrant students arrive
with gaps in their education, especially in early exposure to reading. If they arrive in
middle or high school, they may never be exposed to children’s picture books and
reading experiences that develop a love of reading. This gap, while not measured by
standardized testing, has a far-reaching impact on the literacy and life-long learning
possibilities of these students and their future children. Picture books and graphic novels
can help bridge this gap and give these students reading confidence and reading strategies
they will need to become competent readers. Not only ESL students, but also mainstream
students can benefit from the strategies outlined in this unit. One exemplary graphic
novel, Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, is used throughout the detailed lesson activities to
demonstrate the many ways that graphic novels and visual literacy can be used to
increase students’ ability to analyze a text in detail, understand perspective and purpose
in literature, and connect themes to other content areas such as social studies and math.