Comic Boom - Comics in Education

Comic Boom - S2 Ep.1 with Richard Ruddick

April 19, 2023 Lucy Starbuck Braidley/Richard Ruddick Season 2 Episode 1
Comic Boom - S2 Ep.1 with Richard Ruddick
Comic Boom - Comics in Education
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Comic Boom - Comics in Education
Comic Boom - S2 Ep.1 with Richard Ruddick
Apr 19, 2023 Season 2 Episode 1
Lucy Starbuck Braidley/Richard Ruddick

Lucy chats to primary school teacher and graphic novel enthusiast,  Richard Ruddick.
We discuss  his approach to including comics and graphic novels in the curriculum and encouraging access to them for reading for pleasure.

Richard Ruddick is a year six teacher from Norfolk who is passionate about using graphic novels to develop passionate readers. He runs a blog about how he utilises them to support learning and as a tool to improve engagement across the curriculum and he also has a padlet on which he shares titles that he recommends

Links to everything  discussed, including Richard's recommendations from this episode can be found on the podcast padlet.

Follow Richard on Twitter at  @RuddickRichard
Producer and Host:
@Lucy_Braidley
Contact: comicboompodcast@gmail.com


Music by
John_Sib from Pixabay

Show Notes Transcript

Lucy chats to primary school teacher and graphic novel enthusiast,  Richard Ruddick.
We discuss  his approach to including comics and graphic novels in the curriculum and encouraging access to them for reading for pleasure.

Richard Ruddick is a year six teacher from Norfolk who is passionate about using graphic novels to develop passionate readers. He runs a blog about how he utilises them to support learning and as a tool to improve engagement across the curriculum and he also has a padlet on which he shares titles that he recommends

Links to everything  discussed, including Richard's recommendations from this episode can be found on the podcast padlet.

Follow Richard on Twitter at  @RuddickRichard
Producer and Host:
@Lucy_Braidley
Contact: comicboompodcast@gmail.com


Music by
John_Sib from Pixabay

Lucy:

Hello Richard. Welcome to Comic Boom.

Richard:

Hello. Thank you for having me.

Lucy:

You are very welcome. To start us off, can you tell us about your journey as a comics fan? First of all, where did that start for you?

Richard:

so it started, oh, probably about seven or eight. Uh, let's go to the library every weekend with my parents, and I would always borrow. or asterisk? Sometimes both. And I was like working through the whole set, multiple times, if I'm honest. Instead of pretending it's only once. Uh, and I kept going back every week. I'd always get one of those. And then, me and my brother would always pick up the Beano, sometimes the dandy as well, if it was offering a good free chocolate bar or something. I would read them every single week. Absolutely loved. No one told me they were comics though, so I just read them cuz I love reading them I think that's where the, the seeds were, were sewn, so to speak.

Lucy:

Can we dig into Tintin, because I really love Tin Tin. what's your favorite character in Tintin?

Richard:

Oh, that's a tough one. I'm terrible with the names. Cuz I'm afraid, I'm afraid of rereading them. I'm afraid of rereading them and having like my childhood, uh, kind of wander shattered

Lucy:

Yeah, that will def, that will definitely, definitely happen. They do not stand up to, uh,

Richard:

Yeah. But I do

Lucy:

let's say.

Richard:

I do, always remember that I enjoyed, when they went to the moon. That was, that was

Lucy:

Yeah.

Richard:

but I think Captain Haddock was probably my favorite character. He always did the right thing, but he never did it willingly. Like he was always moaning about it or would be like, ah, it's happened again. And then at the last minute he'd come in and like, save the day or he'd notice something that would solve everything. I enjoyed him.

Lucy:

Yeah, he's great. He's really, large than life character, but yeah, I love Captain Haddock too. so were your comic, was your comic reading part of your school life as well or was it very much a home and weekend kind of activity that.

Richard:

I, well, I could be speaking out of turn here, but I don't remember my school having a single comic at all. So it was absolutely weekend home life. I think I even remember thinking like if there was a week when I went to the library and they didn't, the one I wanted or they didn't have, like the, the ones I hadn't got through yet. I'd be like, well, what, why can't this have them at school? And then I could read them there and I wouldn't have to wait like another week to see if someone's returned it. so yeah, they really didn't feature at all. I think on reflection, there was some in my high school, I always remember seeing the cover of Maus, but I had no idea what it was and was just like, what is this weird book with like a swastika on the front that's called Maus? So they really weren't a factor in any of my education. I have to.

Lucy:

And how's that developed now as an adult? Are you reading because you are a teacher and that's, Where you are very well known for, for your knowledge of, of graphic novels and things like that. Is a lot of your reading now solely faced on the kind of middle grade fiction graphic novels, or do you have other elements of comics that you, you like to dig into as well? What, what are your, what's on your current read sort of reading

Richard:

I. A stage of frantically trying to catch up on all the years I missed of reading comics relevant to me. so in my spare time I'm trying to work through some of the classics or the stuff. I mean, there's so many coming out now, it's impossible to keep up. But I had quite a, long period of not really reading much of anything. And comics weren't on my radar as a teenager and adult cuz they were seen in media as the kind of. Uncool but just something you didn't read unless you were slightly obsessed with them. And I was like, well, I'm not obsessed with them so I can't read them now. and then about, I don't know, maybe I was about 26, something like that, 27 I started getting back into reading them myself, cuz I saw they were starting to become popular in school and realized how much I loved reading comics. So I kind of read a bit of everything that you said. I tried to keep it up to date with the middle grade stuff or even a bit. and I try to do as best as I can to read any book that I put into my classroom, which is quite hard sometimes with how many I buy. I find if it's like a series, just something like bunny versus monkey, rather than make the children wait two weeks for me to read it, I'll just put it on the shelf and think I'll catch up with that one day. But anything particularly that's new or sometimes there's stuff from America where you're not sure quite which age range it's hitting. I try to read myself, but then I also try to not, ignore books that I actually wanna read. Cause there was a bit when I fell into the trap that I think all teachers do, if you only read the stuff that's going in your classroom and you forget about reading for your own enjoyment. So I try to work my way through as many as I can that are kind of relevant to me, adult based ones,

Lucy:

Any good titles that you can We, I will. I will force you to choose just one recommendation at the end of the episode, but. You can get around that by, um, name dropping lots throughout the episode. Is there anything

Richard:

well, I was trying not to, I was trying,

Lucy:

that you'd like to

Richard:

trying really hard to, to not throw them out there. I mean, they're some of the ones I think. so things like saga are always excellent to read. I've, there was a. I recently rediscovered my love with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So I started reading the comics of them, and they did a really good one called The Last Ronan, which is like a modern one. If, if anything, the complete opposite of nostalgic, cause it took away the adorable catche spouting turtles and was like, Everything gone wrong in a dystopian future. I also read my favorite one recently is I read one called, a Righteous Thirst of Vengeance, which it's quite bleak and it's not for the faint of hearted necessarily, but, it was only two books and I just felt so hooked, and sort of desperate to find out what happened.

Lucy:

At what point did these two, sort of your teaching life and your interest in comics, like when did you start to realize that this thing that you'd started to enjoy reading again, actually had a place in more in the classroom. It feels like that you are on a bit of a mission to, to publicize and, promote the use of graphic novels in the classroom. So when did that kind of, how did that come about? What was the realization process?

Richard:

I think basically in a familiar story to many people, I had a poor selection of text in my classroom. I was quite new to teaching. I was probably in my, I think it was the start of sort of partway through my second year maybe. I had quite a poor range and I had like one or two books. And I was like, these books are really popular. and I said it as sort of a throwaway comment and someone went, yeah, I think sometimes children like this kind of comic styles. And I was like, oh yeah, of course it's a comic. I hadn't even put two and two together. And the next year I had, uh, a class had already taught, so they need to be quite well, and they, a couple of kids were like, have you got any more books like this? And I was like, well, no. Do you want some. and there was very much a definitive yes. So I picked up, uh, a copy of the book Nimona by, Noel Stevenson, which some people are argue is not a primary school book, but I'm, I'm fully embracing it in upper key stage two and will die on that hill. Um, and I took that into my class and within about two weeks it had been around nearly everybody. And it's not a quick read compared to some, like, it's quite a chunky. And they were desperate for more. And that was kind of when the penny dropped with me, where I was like, actually, this is what I used to love reading at that age. But because I read everything when I was younger, I sort of would just read anything and everything. I hadn't really realized that I loved them. I was just like, I love reading and seeing them all excited. I was like, okay, we maybe need to pick up one or two more of these. And it didn't happen overnight. But then the year after that, I kind of made a bit more of a conscious effort. I still remember I bought the first book in the Amulet series,

Lucy:

I love amulet so

Richard:

Yeah, well same here.

Lucy:

was the first graphic novel that I bought for my classroom as well. The, there was probably a couple already in the book collection, but the one that was sort of one of the first ones that I, when I consciously started to build a collection for my classroom, that was one of the first ones that I got as well.

Richard:

Yeah. Well, I had no idea what it was. It was just well reviewed, and I was like, oh, well everyone keeps saying this is like the best thing. Never heard of it. Got no idea what it was. I wasn't even sure of it as a graphic novel cuz the description was so vague and I bought it and thought, okay, let's go for it. And it was honestly like a cult. Like there was just, there was, I, I had to wait myself. I kind of just put it in the classroom cause I thought, oh, just give it to them. And I was like midway on the list of people on the line to read it. desperate. And one girl even got, at the time you couldn't buy it in this country, buy like book one and two I think, and one girl got her mom and dad to ship it over from America. cuz you could buy it off like Amazon US for about 50 quit. And then she was like lending it to all the other children in the class. The next year she did the sake she bought in at like the start of year six. And it just went mad and it was a, that was kind of the final moment when I was. as you say, this is a bit of a mission here. We need more of this because there's children here who've barely read a book all year, yet they're devouring this series and they're desperate for more like it. And I kind of made it my goal to give those children and give everyone a chance to say like, if you want to read this, not you have to. You don't have to love it. Like it's not for everyone. If I went and gave my dad a graphic novel, he'd be like, what are you doing? But there's people out there where actually that's what they love and that's the, the way they get access into reading. And it opens that door and it, it takes away some of the stigma or some of the fear that they might have attached to it as well. And just makes it accessible for a lot of people, I think is the key. and I know myself, like if I'm tired or you know, it's busy at work, I'm not gonna sit down and read a three, 400 page novel because I'll be asleep within 10 minutes.

Lucy:

Yeah.

Richard:

in 20 minutes, half an hour, I might make it through a couple of issues worth of a comic, or I might get really into a graphic novel and have read it in 45 minutes and I, I feel that great sense of accomplishment in that time.

Lucy:

I know from my own experience as well that you know that graphic novels can be a hugely powerful way to engage reluctant readers, but I also think that because. the, the kind of flip side of that is that they're not perceived as something that offers anything for. High retaining readers that, like, there isn't any challenge there or that almost once you don't need graphic novels. Once you, once you are interested in reading that there, there isn't a place for them, for them, for high retaining readers. What have you noticed about those kind of readers in your class and how they engage with graphic novels? Because it seems like you are very much pushing them as something that everyone, if they want to, can have access to. And I think that's slightly different than what's going on in in certain classrooms. What's your perspective on that?

Richard:

they love them. I that's as simple as it is. I have a dedicated area, like it's a massive, it's the biggest shelf in my room, probably, which is just full of hundreds of graphic novels. And I'll never say to someone, you can't read it. And I'll never say to someone, you must. I'll give'em a recommendation based on what I think they'll enjoy and what type of book I think is right for them. But you know, I've had children who are some of my, I had a class about five years ago now, and there was a boy who was fantastic at reading, did really well on any test reading wise, give him a graphic novel. He didn't understand how to read it. He couldn't pick up on the cues, he wouldn't use the inference. He'd just kind of stare at it and be like, I don't get what's going on. And then on the flip side, in that same class, I had a girl who was, dyslexic and found reading really difficult, like was so put off by just picking up a book and she would notice stuff I'd never noticed in a graphic novel because she'd really go through the pictures and really think about what actually was happening. And she'd be sitting there saying to him, oh, well you've missed this bit and that means that, and he'd be like, oh yeah, I get it. And it really actually helped him over the next couple of months. He read a few kind of interspersed with what else he was. Him and it actually really helped him improve his explanation skills cuz he started to realize the little clues he was sometimes needed to pick up on or what he was looking for. and it really benefited him. And I think people that say they're just for low readers or reluctant readers, I mean, I don't really like the term reluctant readers anywhere. I just think it's someone who struggles with re, you know, they're low on confidence or they find it hard. So quite rightfully they're not really interested in doing. you know, it's

Lucy:

Like and, and as we wouldn't, as adults, when we have choice of what we do and don't do, we don't tend to spend our time doing things that we don't feel we are very good at or that

Richard:

I walked, if I walks into the staff room and said, right, everyone, I'm going for a run. There'd be about 10 people who'd be like, absolutely not, mate. I hate running.

Lucy:

that's the reluctant runners

Richard:

enough. They'd, yeah, but we don't get all their reluctant runners. We're like, you don't like running But for some reason we're reading. It's like we have to categorize them, isn't it? uh, you know, people do, as you say, they think they're just suitable for them or, oh, it's just something to give to those kids that struggle, but there's something for everyone. You can use them in all sorts of ways and learn so much from them and just enjoy reading them. It would be dft not to give them to everyone, is my view.

Lucy:

we've been talking largely about sort of reading for pleasure, but has this started to work? Its way more into your curriculum delivery as well now then.

Richard:

Yes. So, probably about five years ago, actually with that same class, I started trying to use them. Cuz by that point it was becoming clear they were. As a reading material in my school. So I thought, well, if they love reading them, let's see if they can love writing using them or let's see if they can love learning with them. So I started trying to utilize them in English lessons. mostly cause I got in a mood about how bad one of their pieces of work was once, and I was like, we need to redo this. So we used a comic to help us as a bit of inspiration and actually the quality of the writing almost was night and day. And that sort of made me realize there was something. I probably had a year where I used them a bit too much and was just trying to find ways to fit them in. but then I moved school, last year and the school I moved to had actually asked me to give them some consultation on how to use them in their curriculum. So where I work at the minute, we are slowly using them when appropriate in each year group as best as possible to help. Delivery of a curriculum subject perhaps. so maybe like your history topic or geography topic or to support English. So I've got a year group using when stars are scattered as they look at refugees and when they're learning about the boy at the back of the class, kind of looking at the geography and the, the life of refugee camp and, and what that involves. We've got in year six, I think we're gonna try and use one to do with, inventions and things like that at the end of the year, but, I drip feed in little extracts to support writing and things like that. Year five are using, one of the history ones about the challenger disaster to support their writing of a newspaper. Like we, we've got them working in slowly and the goal is not to have an entire curriculum devoted to them, cuz that would be then negligent of everything else. But to actually say, you know, these have a purpose in supporting certain bits of work you do. And they're the best. If someone turned around and said, oh, we're gonna study, Macbeth, here's the copy of Macbeth. You'd go, brilliant, I'll use that. So why not do the same thing? You know? If you've got a topic that suits using a graphic novel or a comic, use it to support it, whether it be one lesson or a whole sequence. Like if it produces their best work, then it's the best thing.

Lucy:

What do you think is it about the comics that are helping children to produce their best work? Is it the easiest way to convey the information? Is it just because there is that buzz around them that's drawing them in, or what's, what's your view?

Richard:

For me, I think the biggest thing is that they can see exactly what is happening. So I've used them a couple of times to write newspapers. because I realize some children don't understand how to find a quote because if they don't, if they can't see the persons that's saying it, and no matter how many you've done those lessons, like who might be here or what might they say if they haven't written that down already, some of them don't get it. So if you can be showing them, right, here's the event that happened. Here's a picture of it. Who's that in the crowd there? What might they say about it? They can, for some children, that's what they need to associate with it, and. Having the visual clues as well as the written clues that are in it, it just clears everything up. There's no abstract to deal with. It's like, here's what's happening. You can see how that character feels, or you can see what they've said. Let's use that to inform our work. And that's really important for some children. You know, it may not make a big improvement because they've got those skills, but for some, that makes such a difference cuz they haven't gotta worry about. Coming up with the idea or working out who did what. It's there in front of them. They've just gotta add the detail. It's the same with, using them to support the writing of speech. Like if you clear the comic and say, right, tell me what that character's saying. Some children will find it really hard to start with until you point out, just look at how they look and say, right, what do you think they might be saying? And then their speech will float. Whereas if you. Book write speech. You, we've all had it where you read the two characters that have a conversation that just doesn't go anywhere and it's just, hi, how are you? I'm

Lucy:

I'm

Richard:

How are you? Oh,

Lucy:

Oh, it's so the classic of children's writing.

Richard:

Yeah. Like, whereas with a comic, they can see well in two panels time his face has changed from happy to angry, so I've gotta say something to make him angry and they. Kind of how to get that purpose to it. So I think just having that visual support, it, it takes away some of the, the barriers and just takes away some of the, the concepts that get lost in between. We sometimes just expect children to write and know all this stuff, but actually they need something that shows them it as well. that that's not just you writing.

Lucy:

Definitely, you know, I know people don't just listen to this podcast in the uk, but I'm gonna focus on UK curriculum momentarily. Which is, you know, one of, if you're thinking of the year six outcome of, you know, of dialogue that conveys character and, moves on the narrative, then comics are, are great for that cuz that's all the dialogue's ever gonna do. The dialogue. Dialogue is never gonna take up space on that panel if it's not telling you something about the character or moving on the action. It's just really focused in that way, like you say. So I just think it's, it's a great resource for building that understanding. When's effective wait time to use dialogue and when it's not an effective time to use dialogue. Completely agree. is there anything that you are looking to kind of develop next? Were you conscious that in the classroom the work is never done? There's always something that, teachers have in their mind that they want to develop an explore more with classes in the future? Is there something that you haven't tried yet that you'd like to try? What have you, what plans have you got cooking?

Richard:

well actually, after listening to your episode, with Mark. I was thinking about how it'd be really good to give children a comic script and then get them to create what that comic will look like, because often I do it the other way round where it'd be like, right here's a comic, let's write some of this. but actually it'd be quite interesting to flip it the other way round. I'd probably try it with my graphic novel group and be like, right, here's a script. Make this comic. Cuz in theory, everyone's will come out different. Like they'll look different, the characters. say it slightly differently and things like that. So that's one idea I've got cooking, maybe to think about. But I think my overarching goal is to get it so that the use of good quality comics in graphic novels is embedded, not just in reading practice, but in best practice for learning. So, as I said earlier, it doesn't have to just be English. There's lots of lessons you can use them in, and it wouldn't be loads and loads, but it would be when they're in. there's a real purpose and they really support children's education and they help to improve the quality of their understanding could be the quality of their work. You know, they, they offer that chance to solidify something in a way perhaps that hasn't been done as effectively. Like this year I, on a bit of a whim, cuz I was, I don't know, was it a funny mood? One day when I came to work and just thought, I don't agree with anything about what I was reading. I was like, we are going to do this differently. And we made comics about the Spanish Armada. to kind of finalize our learning about how that had come about. and it just focused on, here are the key points. Let's, let's show we know the key points that got us to this event. Because I know when I was at school, I don't remember them properly cuz we just learned about the ships all the time. So I didn't really know what was going on. And the, I gotta give credit to the kids. It was nothing to do with me. I just said, go and make a comic. the work they produced was great cuz they really thought about how they could tell that story in a limited amount of space without missing out important things or without filling a whole panel with like waffly speech about stuff. And it really did benefit the learning cuz they could put in little details like some of them Drew. Mary Queena, Scott's dog, like hiding by her dress cuz apparently she supposedly took that in when she was executed. So some of them drew that in rather than wasting a whole panel writing about it. They just had her being executed and put their little detail there. And sort of rather than waffling on about storms, a lot of them just drew really dramatic storms and talked about what was happening at that stage. And they really got the idea of condensing this big event into a, a small period of time without. removing all the detail. they managed to communicate it really well. So that was useful for sort of solidifying and showing they'd really established that learning. So that's my kind of long goal is to make that, a more common and more purposeful occurrence and not just like a one-off in the year group where someone took the risk. Like I think too many people are afraid to use them. Sometimes they're worried if they photocopy a page from one, someone will come in and be like, that's not a proper text. If that's gonna help them be better at something or help them learn something, then let's do it. Like it's not always the right option. I completely agree, but it's probably more of an option than people realize.

Lucy:

And have you come across Those kind of challenges or barriers to having, it sounds like you've been fortunate in the schools that you've worked in and that, that people are really embracing this kind of approach, especially hearing that it's been embedded across curriculum and so on. Have you come across any sort of challenges or reluctance to use comics more?

Richard:

Yeah, I I've been lucky. I think some of it's also just my own ignorance of like, I think this is the best way I'm gonna do it. And then someone can moan at me afterwards if it doesn't work. But I'm gonna put myself out there and say, I think this is how I can get the best outta these children. and I know not everyone feels like that. And that can be because they work in schools where perhaps it isn't as support. you know, someone will be willing to at least listen to your point of view, even if they don't agree. But I think certainly I've had, I mean, I've had resistance from some people just for children reading them. Like it's, it's difficult because when children enjoy them, they do often get a bit obsessed sometimes. And there is that time when you think, oh, they're only reading my graphic novels. How can I get them onto novels? But if you just let them read the graphic novels and enjoy them after a bit of time, you can then sit there, say, and I'll tell you. If you enjoyed reading, you know that story. Why not try this one instead? And usually actually that'll work. Whereas if you start trying to say you can only read three graphic novels and then you must read a novel to get more variety, they're probably not gonna enjoy that novel. Or they'll just pick something for the sake of it. Whereas if you let'em read graphic novels for three months and then turn around and say, right, actually, you've read your way through all of them. Here's where I think now you might find some joy because you're more. And they're more likely to stick with it. So I've had a bit of, resistance or issues with that in the past and people almost blaming me for the fact that their kids are obsessed with them. They're like, well, all they do is read these now cuz you've told them they can, or you know, cuz you are letting them. And it's like, well yeah, of course I am. They're reading. They wouldn't read, not before they picked a book up, pretended to.

Lucy:

Yeah. Yeah. Put it back after a few weeks and then picked another one up

Richard:

like, and then put it back. Or they, they read that 400 page book in two days, even though, you know, they can't read very well. so it's like, why would I not want them to keep reading these graphic novels if that means they're reading? Yes. It's not perfect to, to only read one type, but it's better they read one type of book than no type of book. And that seems to be the, the kind of base problem. And then I think I have had a few people who, so. They're not against using'em in the classroom, but they, they decide because they don't read them, they wouldn't know how to use them. But it's really the same as anything else you would use. If you want to give children a good example, you find a good quality text and you show them that extract, so all you need to do is say, right. Either speak someone online and say, do you know any good books that might have a good. Or flick through a couple and say, has this got an example of what I'm looking for? Like recently I was reading, uh, a book at home called The Many Deaths of Layla Star by Ram V, who's a beautiful writer, very much adult work, but his work is always so well written. And I read this page and at the that moment we were studying figurative language in school, and there was a page where he just, there was only about four speech bubbles, but each one was a simile or a. and I was like, these are brilliant examples. It would be great to take this page in, show them, this is what it can look like, like this is effective use of that language. Show them what they're trying to create and then we'll write some of them ourself. Because actually the examples we looked at in class, some children were still struggling to create them because they couldn't quite get it. That's not anything different to looking at a text, like I've just looked at the words and said those would be effective for teaching it. But I think people. Think and think, well, I dunno which ones have the best words, or which ones have the best pictures, but none of us do. You've just gotta read and or like browse and you'll come across it. Some things are easier to find than others, but a lot of the time a quick flick will be enough for me to find what I want or to find an example and think, oh, okay, that's what I want out of this. And you can go with it. And I think people worry they've gotta read 10 years worth of graphic novels and that they'll store'em all in your head. Like, that's not possible. I don't know. If page 53 of this issue is gonna have amazing language, but what I do know is if I can pick the book up, I can find out quite quickly.

Lucy:

Yeah. And you start to know, you start, it's quite quick to start to build up a kind of, even if it's quite a limited list, but of, or if you've got creators that you know are offering quality, then you've got a starting point, haven't you? And you've also got your Padlet resource, which I know is really, really popular. That might be a useful starting point. Can you tell people a little bit about your Padlet if they're thinking, I don't know where to start, to build collections or to find quality?

Richard:

so the Padlet basically started cuz I was sick and tired of Googling lists and not finding answers to what I wanted. but it is, just a simple page on Padlet where probably every half term at the moment, Quick as I used to be to it. I go on and I update it with books that I've read or have been in my classroom and are like wildly successful. Not the ones where one or two kids love'em and no one else. They're generally pretty popular so that, you know, if you buy that it's likely to be successful in your school. I give a rough age recommendation. Some people don't agree with me at times. I'm slightly more relaxed, I think about certain things, than other people. But I would never put something in there that I think is completely wildly inappropriate. You know, I might say on some, this is maybe best for certain children in a year group or think about this particular bracket. so the Golden Hour, for example, which was my favorite book I think of last year. It does cover a little bit to do with like school shootings. It doesn't show anything inappropriate, but I did sort of say, just be aware if you've got some children perhaps that. not mature enough to deal with. That was the main concern. Maybe don't put it on your general shelf, just recommend it away. But most kids will be, will love this book. It's so beautifully written. but yeah, so it gives a rough age guide, a tiny little bit about what it is kind of thing. Not much cuz we don't wanna be reading loads. and then it updates. now so that the most recent ones go to the top. So if you scroll all the way to the bottom, you'll find loads that don't even have stuff written on them. Or you think, oh, that book's been out for years. Uh, and then the more recent ones, or my more recent reading is near the top. I don't think anyone knows this, actually. I try not to put sequels on it simply because it would be completely unusable if you did, cuz you'd have like every book in so many different series. So if I've put book one on of a. The chances are, I'm telling you, that series is great. I just don't want to put, you know, all 15 volumes of Space Boy on there or something, or alet one to nine because that's crazy that you miss the, the gems. So yeah, I, I tend to just put the first book, um, and you know, I'll make a point of telling people if the series isn't worth it, but it's very rare these days.

Lucy:

Have you been surprised by, because it is, it's a resource that I see mentioned all the time in teachers group, on Facebook, on Twitter. Are you surprised that it's become this kind of, such a hub, a well-known hub or source of recommendations,

Richard:

Yes. Um,

Lucy:

It's got a life of It of its own

Richard:

It has become a little bit of a a thing. Cause people always call it like, oh, the Padlet, as if it's like a being. But I always laugh as well because some people say it and it's lovely. Like, first of all, I love how much people use it and it's exactly what I intended for When I made it was like, here's a page for recommendations. If you don't know what to buy, basically, because I was buying so many and not all of them were great. I was like, well, there should be something that tells people. So first of all, thank you to everyone that uses it and is so positive. But it always makes me laugh because I think people, some people act as if I have some astounding knowledge and I'm like, well, 90% of these are just books that I Googled and then purchased and read, like I didn't have some amazing. heads up or be like, ah, this is, I was just like, oh, that looks interesting. I'm gonna read that. Oh this was good. Why don't you buy it? You know, it is not, anything to do with like a skill or an ability. It's probably just a obsession with trying to make sure no one's buying the wrong books. I'd hate for someone to be like, graphic alls are terrible. I bought this one and it was rubbish cuz it doesn't take much to put people off. And so many teachers do buy things with their own money.

Lucy:

I was gonna actually ask you about that because you are referring frequently to books that you have bought for your classroom and it is, it's an ongoing challenge for teachers. It is a real thing that teachers are spending a lot of their own money to, to sort of supplement the literature that's available in their classroom. And, it's quite shocking really, isn't it?

Richard:

I, it's, it's tricky and it's terrifying because there is no obligation. Like I could not buy another notebook for the next six months, and no one's gonna come in and say, I'm not doing my job properly. There's those people that say, well, you don't have to do it. But then I sit there and I look at my class and you buy a book and you watch them love it and they share it with each other. And like Bunny versus Monkey is a great example in my room cuz a couple of them buy it, uh, at home and they love it. And then you, I bought the most recent one and there's kids from like four or five classes coming to try and borrow it cause they're desperate to read it. Cause they love that. And then they say, well, can you get the. and you think, you know, you do the usual, well I have got bills to pay and all that. But then you sit there and you think like, no one, this money's not coming from nowhere. Like the school isn't just gonna rally turn around and be like, here you go. Here's a hundred pound to buy bunny versus monkey books with. And there's other things you can do. And there is other stuff we do as a school. Like we did a book fair recently, which we've used to invest in our library and we've bought quite a few graphic novels with it cuz they're so popular. But you also think like, if I get that next. I'm just helping them love reading more and that's gonna support their learning. And you almost guilt trip yourself and you know, kids will say, can you buy it? But they'll easily forget and they'll easily move on and it, it becomes almost, you think, well this is the way I can, I just feel like it's the way I can do my job. The best I can do it is to help make sure they have that access. Like as a school, uh, as a kid, sorry, myself, I went to the library all the time and my parents made sure I had access to books cuz we couldn't buy as. So it's like, well, if I've got that opportunity and I try to buy ones that I want to read as well, that's how I justify it, is I think, right. Well, if I'm gonna buy it, it's gonna be one I want to read and, and enjoy. you know, and I'm lucky. Now I do have a few publishers that send me some, to review, but even then, I'm still, well, every month I buy two or three. Probably at one point I was probably buying five or six a month. because it was like, well that's gonna help them enjoy reading and get a better education. And I might, I might help to improve their future potentially, or I might just help them find something else they like. but it's sad cuz you're right, it's be, it's happening up and down the country. Like it's, you know, I'm probably controlled compared to some people. There'll be people out there who'll be spending 50, 60 quid a month potentially because they want their children to love reading and they know that's what it needs. it's, it's awful cuz if, if you had a budget, my view is always, if you had a budget a year for each classroom to buy books, I would have no problem spending a bit extra on top to make sure they had a really good selection, like buying that one book a month or maybe one or two that you know they're really gonna love, if you've then got that investment. But when actually that's the only. That they're getting new books in their classrooms and, and the library, that's the problem. Like I think teachers don't have a problem buying the books. They have a problem that they're the only people buying them.

Lucy:

Yeah.

Richard:

And that's the real issue. And I know there's lots of other stuff, like they'll be people who will say, oh, well I do the same for art supplies, or I do the same for, you know, maths or something. But that's all wrong. That's the problem. Like it should never be that way.

Lucy:

We need to fund schools properly and if schools do have the funding, then actually, like you've demonstrated so much of what you've been saying is that. the, although graphic novels can be a little bit more expensive than other titles because they get borrowed so much. The sort of return on investment, the cost per read, is really, really low in the end because they're just constantly out. And I know there's some sort of research in America sharing that, But yeah, it's definitely, one of those kind of hidden things I think, is the extent to which the actual teaching profession is, is filling in the gap of school budgets on a sort of week to week basis. Bit of a downer, Bit of a downer, downer. End to the podcast. Shall we, uh, shall we brighten things up by, uh, talking about your three takeaways, three things that you think might help to improve or influence teaching practice, things that you've learned, things for people to think about.

Richard:

so I think a big one is just. Embrace it, like embrace the risk of using some graphic novels or having them in your school. So many people were a bit reticent when I first started doing it, about putting them in their libraries cuz they were worried it wasn't proper reading. What are the parents gonna say? I don't think my head teacher will agree with this. And they're saying, people are now messaging me or saying how much they're loved in their schools. So be willing to take the risk, like have them in there. They're not, they're not gonna hurt anyone. It's not. back in the day when people were terrified. Like people that read comics would become social deviance or something. Like, have them in there. Let them enjoy them. And just like any book, if they enjoy that type, you know, if they enjoy an action graphic novel, recommend them an action novel or an action nonfiction book that focuses on something, like tie it to their interests and, and get them involved. So that, that would be a big one for me. I think another one would be, what we touched on earlier is if. Are, if they're gonna benefit or they'll help your work or your curriculum, use them as a tool. Like don't just resign them to that one shelf from the library that says graphic novels with some comic book font written around it, or some speech bubbles. Like if they're, if they're gonna benefit your children's learning and education, put them, put them in it and try it. Have, have a have a go. If it doesn't work, you can always change it. You're not gonna destroy. someone's future career if you tried to use them to help your writing and it didn't quite work, like you'll know what you're looking for next time. so I think be, be willing to do that. and then the last one is, I suppose just if we can keep getting people to champion them and promote them and discuss them and value them, we are gonna catch up with the other countries who are far ahead of us with using them.

Lucy:

Mm.

Richard:

in Europe, you've got places like France and Belgium where they're so much more accessible and they are promoted and they are valued and you know, you can go to a shop, uh, supermarket, et cetera, and their reading section will have big displays In America, you've got comic shops galore and they've got displays everywhere and you know, they, they really promote them like Scholastics graphics over there. So behind promoting them, and it feels like we are catching up in this country. I think the Phoenix comic is an amazing example of something that's helped bring it to the fore scholastic. And now publishing more over here, like Mr. Wolf's class has finally just been published over here, which is such a good series, but it's five

Lucy:

for the first time. Cause people keep mentioning it. It's so

Richard:

Oh, it's so good. But it is, there's five books of. but we're only just getting the first one because people are worried it won't sell in this country. So I think the more people can champion their use, and as I say, you haven't gotta sit there and say they're the greatest thing ever. Like, I love them. I adore reading them. That is my main choice of text to read. But not everyone else is gonna be like, you don't have to be that passionate, but be out there and say, get this book for your class, or, this is a brilliant text. Because the more people see that, the more people will be willing to invest or to take. And then they'll get the, the push they deserve over here. And I think we, we worry about children preferring screens and all of that, but I think adults are just as bad because we don't give people enough of what they like reading. And if we are saying at the moment, graphic novels are a big thing that kids love reading. And I think adults are, are moving that way as well. Let's get them in, you know, let's get more of those in here and give them that exposure. if something else then becomes the next big thing, get more of that. Like if all of a sudden crime novels in key stage two are the, the way to reading, then by them, why, why ignore it just cuz it has pictures and words together. So I really do think championing them is a big one. And, and it could help genuinely help shape how literature is viewed and engaged with in this country, um, in a really positive.

Lucy:

Those are three brilliant takeouts. Thank you so much. Final thing, if we add one comic or book graphic novel to our to be read piles tomorrow, what should it be? Richard O. King of recommendations,

Richard:

I've, I've, come up with a theory that I think could get me two. Okay. so I'm gonna say if you're in a school, you must buy the book, swim team. it's a graphic novel aimed at probably upper key stage two, but I think year four would be fine with it as well. And it is just the most heartwarming and heart-wrenching story. And I don't know, like it's a book I fully judged by its cover and was like, this is gonna not be for me. I don't think I'll like this, but there's lots of people saying good stuff. And by the time I finished it, I was just like, this is phenomenal. So Swim team is definitely my one to go to in school Libraries. just if you want to do some reading yourself, away from school and you want something a bit more grown up, a series called something is Killing the Children. It's pretty horrific, and pretty brutal. Um, but I, I don't really read or watch horror particularly. It's not a genre I'm particularly interested in, and I can't put it down like it is so gripping because it does go into character. A lot more than just being about horrible things, but there's plenty of that as well. so yeah, that's my adult suggestion, as well, and that's why James Tinian, the fourth and swim team is by Johnny Christmas, which is my favorite author name.

Lucy:

Very good. No, I haven't read either of those and they both sound really good actually. I've seen swim teams cover come up a couple of times probably on Twitter. It's sort of on my radar, but that has kind of brought it into the top of the list I think Thank you so much for coming on a lot of our content provides context I think for educators that they might find useful and just build confidence and it's kind of around education, but it's really nice to have someone come on and talk really practically and really focused on actually what's going on in schools and in the classroom. So you've really provided some really. Focused takeout. So thank you very much for coming on. It's been really great to listen,

Richard:

Oh. So much for having me and willing to listen to me spout on about graphic novels.

Lucy:

Anytime. Anytime, Richard.