Graphic Novels to Pair with Social Studies Lessons

I am a huge fan of graphic novels, especially when it comes to instruction. As a school librarian, I love finding new ways to collaborate with teachers and one way that teachers love to utilize me is when they ask me to find literature to accompany their unit. I pull a variety of resources for teachers, nonfiction, poetry if available, fiction novels, but one thing that I always try to get as many as I can, is graphic novels. Graphic novels accompanying a lesson is an extra way to bring learning to life through instructions, storytelling, and captivating pictures. 

When curating my school library collection, I always look at the standards for the social studies classes (really all subjects for that matter) and try to find graphic novels, and manga’s that teachers could use in their instruction. Graphic novels are one of my favorite ways to really elevate instruction and reach those reluctant learners in an engaging and educational way format. Nothing brings me as much joy as when I am digging around trying to find a graphic novel or manga on a particular subject and finding it. Graphic novels are engaging to learners and can be a way to really take learning to the next level. 

Below are a few of my favorite graphic novels that I share with teachers over the topics that they are teaching. These graphic novels are engaging and informative for learners and really help make the subject 

Voting and Democracy 

  • Drawing the Vote: A Graphic Novel History for Future Voters by Tommy Jenkins
    • This graphic novel looks at history of voting rights in the United States
  • Why The People: The case of Democracy by Beka Feathers 
    • This graphic novel discusses democracy and how people play a role in democracy
  • Fault Line in the Constitution: The Graphic Novel: The Framers, Their Fights and the Flaws that affect us today by Cynthia Levinson 
    • This graphic novel looks at the Constitution, the issues that the Constitution presents and how to fix those issues. 

Black History 

  • Victory. Stand! Raising My First for Justice by Tommie Smith. 
    • This graphic novel is the story of Tommie Smith of being in 1968 during the medal ceremony at the Mexico City Olympics and protesting racial injustices upon African Americans. 
  • Across the Tracks: Remembering Greenwood, Black Wall Street, and the Tulsa Race Massacre by Alverne Ball 
    • This graphic novel discusses the time prosperity for Black Americans. Details of timelines and essays of the details of this time. 
  • The Murder of Emmett Till by Karlos Hill 
    • This graphic novel discusses the murder of Emmett Till and the events before and after. 
  • Run: Book One and Run: Book Two by John Lewis 
    • Run Book One and Book Two discuss the life of Congressman Lewis fight for civil rights. 
  • Satchel Paige: Striking out Jim Crow by James Sturm  
    • This graphic novel discusses the career of Negro League Baseball pitcher Satchel Paige.

American History 

  • In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers: The Seconds, Minutes, hours, Days, Weeks, Months, and Years after the 9/11 attacks by Don Brown
    • This graphic novel discusses the aftermath of September 11th. 
  • Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Backderf
    • This graphic novel discusses when the Ohio National Guard gunned down unarmed college students protesting the Vietnam War. 
  • Red Scare by Liam Francis Walsh
    • This graphic novel details growing up during the red scare and living with the rumors of communist spies.
  • They called us Enemy by George Takei
    • This graphic novel is George Takei recounting his childhood imprisoned in an American Concentration Camp for Japanese Americans during WWII. 
  • Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American  
    • This graphic novel recounts growing up as a young Chinese immigrant in a small town in Texas, cultural and social adaptations, and racial discrimination. 
  • Passport by Sophia Glock 
    • This graphic novel details the life of Sophia Glock and her life of growing up abroad as her family works for the CIA, most of which was in Central America 
  • The American Dream? A journey of Route 66 by Shing Yin Khor 
    • This graphic novel has Shing Tun Khor discussing growing up in Malaysia, discusses what she though America meant and seeing what it really seems like as they go on a road trip across the United Sates and pilgriming the search of the American dream.

World History 

  • Irena. Book One, Wartime Ghetto by Jean David Morvan
    • This graphic novel a social worker in the Warsaw ghetto in the early days of German occupation. How she saves Jewish children by smuggling them out
  • When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson- 
    • This graphic novel is a memoir of living in a refugee camp after soldiers attack their village in Somalia. 
  • The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown
    • This graphic novel is a look at the Syrian Refugee Crisis. 

Author: Jessica Fitzpatrick

Jessica Fitzpatrick is a high school librarian in Houston and is in her tenth year of education. She holds a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Houston and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of North Texas. She is a 2022 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, 2022 TLA MVP, an AASL Inspire Special Event Grant recipient, 2022 YALSA’s MAE Award for Best Literature Program for Teens, the 2022 TLA Branding Award Winner for Reading Program, the 2020 TLA Branding Award Winner for Community Engagement, YALS article contributor, and on the TAYSHAS Reading Committee. She enjoys running, reading, and spending time with her two daughters and husband. You can follow her on Instagram at @librarian_fitz and on Twitter at @librarianfitz .

Categories: Literacy

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3 replies

  1. Thanks for this great list! I love the Run series and also find success with the graphic novels for some of the classics taught like The Iliad and The Odyssey, Shakespeare plays, and books such as Anne Frank’s Diary, Animal Farm, and Emma (I have a Manga version of that one).

  2. I am also a big fan of graphic novels and find that they can be more engaging for students. This is a wonderful list, thank you!

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