5 Reasons to Enter our Graphic Novel Competition

Taking part in the voting for the Scottish Teenage Book Prize is a fantastic opportunity to get pupils reading and discussing contemporary fiction. And while that’s happening, pupils can also enter one of our fabulous competitions, all designed to promote both reading for pleasure and critical reading skills.

Our graphic novel competition asks pupils to adapt a scene from one of the shortlisted books into a comic strip. Adapting a scene is a fascinating challenge, and our panel will be looking for evidence of careful thought and critical decision making. You can use our comprehensive activity pack from comic creators Metaphrog to help introduce pupils to the conventions of comic writing and to help them plan their adaptation. Adam Murphy, author of Corpse Talk and Lost Tales, is also on hand to help in his recent blog series.

There’s enormous breadth in the world of comics and graphic novels

I love reading comics, but I didn’t always, and it also took me a wee while to fully grasp their benefits for literacy learning and fostering reading for pleasure. If you’re in that boat at the moment, have a look below to see why we think you and your pupils have lots to gain from entering the competition.

It can introduce pupils to reading comics

Leaving aside benefits for literacy for a moment, it’s simply a good thing to let pupils experience a comic. There’s enormous breadth in the world of comics and graphic novels – sure, the superheroes are fun and often fascinating characters, but comics and graphic novels encompass much more, from gritty stories grounded in reality, to re-tellings and re-imaginings of myths and legends. Think of them just as good reads, before you think of them as tools for literacy. The artwork is also something to drink in – you’ll see this from some of the examples in the activity pack by Metaphrog mentioned above. Check out some of our graphic novel lists – you’ll find a link at the bottom of this post.

It helps less confident pupils with reading and writing

For pupils with print disabilities, or even just less confident readers, comics (and also picture books for older readers) can open up a previously inaccessible world of reading. The sparing use of text in a comic means that the brain can spend less time trying to simply decode language, and more time absorbing a narrative and constructing meaning. The same applies to writing a comic – the availability of pictures as a tool to convey meaning can remove stress and leave space for making important critical decisions about the interplay between words and image in the text.

Pupils will need to think about what they want to leave out and retain from the original text

It promotes the writer’s craft

As the activity pack from Metaphrog shows, there’s lots to think about when putting together a comic scene. The ability to show not tell is key, as pupils decide how to use images to convey character, setting and atmosphere. Framing and composing images tests skills similar to those covered in media courses – a well-judged close up shot can really bring home the emotional impact of a scene, for example. And of course, onomatopoeia is a staple of the comic genre – biff!, bang! and pow! are stamped all over my recollection of the campier Batman comics.

It promotes critical thinking

The process of adapting a scene from one medium to another presents lots of challenges. Pupils will need to think about what they want to leave out and retain from the original text, considering the suitability of all elements for the comic medium. There’s also no obligation to keep text the same as the original – dialogue and exposition can be reworked.

It promotes teamwork and cross-curricular skills

Don’t worry, our panel doesn’t expect pupils’ comics to be artistically stunning – the emphasis is on the way they’ve built the narrative. But if you do want to spend some time in the Art and Design classroom, comic writing provides plenty of opportunities to develop skills and experiment with style, as well as discuss and analyse artists’ work (our David Almond activity pack has a few good activities in this area). And although it can be hard work to organise, a joint project between departments has the potential to get pupils more motivated and invested in their end product.

Also, if you ask pupils to work in pairs, there are two critical gazes being cast over the comic scene. There’s loads to think about, so dividing up responsibility for editing might be the ideal approach: one pupil can be in charge of reviewing layout, the other can appraise the content (for example).


So what are you waiting for? The competition is a real chance to open up a gateway to both reading and writing for pleasure. We can’t wait to read your entries, so grab a pencil and some art implements and start creating!

Comics and graphic novels are fantastic reads for all ages. Check out our range of lists to get you started.