Supporters say graphic novels help students develop language skills, reinforce vocabulary, and develop critical thinking skills, among other benefits.

In an honors English class at Alan B. Shepard High School near Chicago, sophomores are analyzing Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” with the help of another book filled with drawings and dialogue that appears in bubbles above characters’ heads.

“Capote in Kansas” is what generations of kids would recognize as a comic book, though it has a fancier name—a graphic novel.

That honors students at the Palos Heights, Ill., high school are using it illustrates how far the controversial comic-strip novels have come in gaining acceptance in the school curriculum, educators say.

Once aimed at helping struggling readers, English language learners, and disabled students, graphic novels are moving into honors and college-level Advanced Placement classrooms and attracting students at all levels.

They’re listed as reading material for students in the new Common Core standards being adopted across the country, even though some naysayers still question their value in the classroom.

(Next page: Why supporters say graphic novels have a place in the curriculum)