Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Gian S. Pagnucci, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Gloria Park, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Michael M. Williamson, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Christopher McCarrick, Ph.D.


This study evaluated how comic books and graphic novels enhanced the reading comprehension of the students enrolled in the intermediate reading course at Western Pennsylvania Community College. The three research questions are: (1) How can a developmental reading course make use of comics as a learning tool? (2) What impact does reading comics have on developmental students' Nelson Denny reading scores? (3) What impact does reading comics have on developmental students' attitudes toward reading? The researcher conducted a qualitative research that examined the literacy backgrounds and attitudes towards reading comics of a sampling of eight reluctant readers in the Intermediate Reading courses from Fall 2009, Spring 2010, and Fall 2010. Data was collected from the participants' introduction and exit letters, literacy autobiographies, three reading reports, reflective journals of the students and teacher, and interviews. First, based on a thematic analysis of the participants' data, research question one revealed that comics helped them to visualize and understand the concepts of reading comprehension. When reading comics, the reader was able to bridge the gap between the verbal text and the visual text and was still able to utilize critical reading strategies on a consistent basis as one would do reading a verbal-only text. This act is referred to as "Closure" (McCloud 1993).