Connors, S. P. (2010) Multimodal Reading

Multimodal Reading: A Case Study of High School Students in an After-School Graphic Novel Reading Group


Despite the interest that literacy researchers have taken in graphic novels - a kind of multimodal text that conjoins word and image to convey a narrative - few applied studies have asked how stronger readers at the high school level experience them. To fill a gap in the literature on graphic novels, and to contribute to a burgeoning body of scholarship on multimodal reading, this case study asked how six high school students - four males, and two females - who were identified by their English teachers as proficient readers responded to four graphic novels in the context of a voluntary after-school reading group. Sociocultural theories of literacy learning, as well as reader response theories and semiotic perspectives on multimodality, were employed to understand:

a) how the students conceived of graphic novels as a form of reading material;
b) what semiotic resources they drew on to construct meaning;
c) how they talked about graphic novels in the context of an after-school reading group;
and d) how, if at all, doing so influenced the manner in which they conceived of graphic novels.

Data were collected using methods associated with qualitative research, specifically, whole-group and individual interviews, participant observation, and the collection of written artifacts. Data analysis made use of open, axial, and selective coding.

Findings from the study indicate that people appropriate strategies for reading and talking about graphic novels as they participate in a community of readers that values that particular form of reading material. The findings also point to the active role readers occupy as they transact with graphic novels. As they read and talked about the graphic novels they encountered in the context of this study, the students were found to have drawn on an available visual design, color design, audio design, spatial design, and linguistic design as resources for constructing meaning. Despite this, they often appeared to underestimate the knowledge they drew on as readers of multimodal texts.

Conclusions drawn from this study suggest that educators who are interested in using graphic novels in the classroom may need to help students make visible the knowledge they draw on to read them. Given the preponderance of multimodal texts that students encounter outside of school, adopting such an approach may help them foreground the rhetorical strategies those texts employ to persuade them, and heighten their awareness of the resources they draw on as readers to construct meaning in their transactions with them.

Citation Sean P. Connors (2010). Multimodal Reading: A Case Study of High School Students in an After-School Graphic Novel Reading Group (Doctoral Thesis, Ohio State University, Ohio, USA). Thesis

BibTex entry for this thesis:

BibTex entry for this thesis:

address = {Ohio, USA},
author = {Connors, Sean P.},
pages = {1--386},
school = {Ohio State University},
title = {{Multimodal Reading: A Case Study of High School Students in an After-School Graphic Novel Reading Group}},
type = {Doctoral Thesis},
year = {2010}

Key ideas


AIDS, Doctor of Philosophy, Zapiro