Learning Through Graphic Novels and Comics

Paves the Way for a Deeper Understanding of Metaphors, Symbolisms and Point-Of-Views

Learn Through Reading & Doing
Learn Through Reading & Doing

Annie is an information and security analyst and member of the Shoreditch WorkLife Book Club. She is an avid fan of superhero films and graphic novels. She attributes this to her love of comic books, which began as a child. She can still clearly remember eagerly awaiting the new plot twists and turns the characters in her weekly comic book would encounter and how they would navigate through them.

Annie continues to seek out and learn from unfamiliar experiences and loves nothing better than geeking out on superhero films, graphic novels and comic books. She loves that her passions encourage her brain to imagine the unimaginable. Her mind has no limits when she’s geeking out.

Maggie, a police officer and fellow member of the Shoreditch WorkLife Book Club, needed Annie’s graphic novel and comic book expertise to help her mum, Omnira, with a community project she was involved with.

Omnira is a primary school teacher. She also volunteers at a refugee centre, helping people learning to speak English with their vocal clarity. She believes people are misrepresented by how they speak and treated differently because of that.

This is something Omnira experienced when she arrived in the UK from Jamaica as a little girl. The day she started school was the first time in her life she felt different. Her name was different, and her accent was different. She held back from speaking up in class because when she did, the other children would laugh at her, and in the playground, they would mimic her. She had to adjust who she was to fit the classroom and the playground. She did this by listening to how the other children spoke. As she grew up, she became obsessed with perfecting her voice, attending a weekly voice class at a drama school.

Part of her role at the refuge centre is helping people get the jobs they deserve. Omnira drives home the importance of vocal clarity because it’s a hurdle people need to jump before they even get onto to playing field. She strives to do this in a way that people don’t feel they have to change who they are to fit a room, as she did, but in a way that the room fits who they are or that there is a space in that room for them.

Omnira also works with people to help them tell their story in interviews. To help them relax, she’ll suggest baking something or preparing a dish together, talking through the experience in a way that allows everyone to share something about their culture and background. She believes that sharing food is a wonderful device to open up doors to great stories and a greater understanding between people.

Omnira loves to encourage learning by doing through interview and presentation practice and WorkLife conversations. She loves to engage all the senses to support people’s preferred way of taking in information and learning. The voice classes are for people who like to learn by listening. The shared food experiences for people who like to learn through taste, touch and smell. But while she encouraged reading, she felt people weren’t as engaged as much as they could be. Sharing this with Maggie, Omnira said she thought people who liked detail got more out of the English classics that filled the bookshelves. But she felt she needed to do something different with people who liked more big picture thinking and more visual learning.

Maggie, who loved connecting people and ideas, had what she believed was the perfect solution.

Maggie told her mum that Annie had shared with her that when she was young, she was very visual in her learning, and this was what had drawn her to comic books. They engaged her on a plane that extended far beyond the words on the page. A big picture thinker, they allowed her imagination to run wild, and not just in terms of the story, but the art as well.

Maggie suggested to her mum that she ask Annie to bring along some of her wonderful collection of graphic novels and comic books to the centre and have a shared experience with the refugees in the same way Omnira does with her culinary experiences. Omnira loved this idea. And so did Annie.

WorkLife Book Wisdom

Annie’s collection included: The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman, George Orwell’s 1984: The Graphic Novel, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, along with a range of superhero comic books.

Annie hadn’t structured a class as such. She simply facilitated a conversation with the group. Each of them shared what they loved about graphic novels and comics.

Words of Wisdom

Of how graphic novels and comics can be used as learning tools across a range of subjects, such as languages, science and geography. How they can be used to tell stories of any content, in any style to depict cultural and historical events.

They talked about the many visual cues graphic novels and comics used to convey so much information and how when the text and spatial cues, when all combined, invoked the sense of passage of time, the space of the story, sounds and action, paving the way for a deeper understanding of metaphors, symbolisms and point-of-views.


Annie, Maggie and Omnira (who had joined the group conversation) were blown away by everything that everyone was sharing. The experience evoked a lot of emotions, bringing people back to their childhood and teenage years, sharing their comic book day experiences in the place they had once called home. They shared nostalgic moments that were both happy and sad. It was a wonderfully moving experience, and it was also a wonderful learning experience, and one the group all wanted to share again. It was also a wonderful learning experience that people could engage in alone, lost in the adventures of the mind; the books and comics would take them on.

Annie and Maggie are members of The WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. Their stories were adapted from the book. Omnira’s story was also adapted from the book. The continuing story of all three characters through the shared reading experience was inspired by Why Adults Should Read Comic Books Too from Difference Engine.

This story is part of a series of stories that share insights into the characters in my book WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. Stories that share insights that aren’t shared in the book to the main characters, the support characters and the behind the scenes characters. While the characters in the stories are not based on real people, they are representative of the people who are an integral part of Shoreditch life, the neighbourhood I live in, which is full of people with different WorkLife experiences.

Shoreditch is a special place, and I believe what makes it so is the incredible diversity of life paths that cross here, spanning the whole globe and many walks of life.

You may also like my Learning Through Reading Series: A collection of stories inspired by real WorkLife struggles and successes presented as case studies for group discussion. The case and the recommended book are the required reading for each book club meeting and help to frame the subsequent discussion.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of www.schoolofworklife.com My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.