The use of multimodal texts as a teaching resource is believed to be one of the fundamental requirements in keeping abreast with the rapid evolvement of literacy. This practice is reflected in the teaching of literature at primary schools in Malaysia when graphic novels, an example of a multimodal text, are introduced as one of the contemporary literary texts. The unique combination of language and images to make meaning in new ways is considered to be one of the main attributes why graphic novels are relevant in promoting multimodality in literature learning. Although its benefits are extensively explored, little research has been conducted to investigate how graphic novels are read. Do the readers actually effectively use the textual (language) and visual (images) elements when reading graphic novels? To this end, a study to investigate the patterns of visual behaviour of good and poor readers was conducted to observe the moment-by-moment processes during reading. Forty-nine Year 5 primary schoolers participated in a reading experiment using the Tobii TX300 eye tracking machine. Twelve pages of graphic novels from the Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew series were used as stimuli. Utilizing gaze plot and heat map analysis as the eye movement measure, this paper reports the eye movement behaviours of these young readers when reading graphic novels in three categories, namely, the sequence of panels, the reading path and the textual or visual focus. Results indicate that the participants, irrespective of their reading ability, had difficulty to follow the correct sequence of panels when the layout of the stimuli involves ‘staggering’ and ‘blockage’ manipulations. Although the majority of the participants followed the “left-to-right and down order” or the “Z-path”, when reading graphic novels, greater amount of attention was given to the textual elements compared to the visual features which were overlooked when navigating the stimuli. Results from this study highlight the educational implications that the importance of visual processing and its integration with textual elements should be taught to young readers to assist comprehension.


graphic novels, literature, multimodality, primary pupils, textual elements, visual elements

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
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University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
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University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
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Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)