The importance of visuals in texts of all kinds is an important point to reinforce in order to avoid the privileging of traditional novel reading. While analysis of ads and social media has become more common in education it still seems the literacy is still overly focused on traditional novels.
The emergence of graphic novels and comics as “legitimate” forms of text and their use in classrooms is a positive change however. Graphic novels and comics allow for ample space to discuss the effects of visuals, space, time, and blocking. At the same time, there are many different comics to choose from depending on what literary idea a teacher wants to focus from with topics anywhere from immigration and refugees to the power of dreams. Comics provide a inherently strong starting point to discuss imagery, blocking, representation, and more due to the combined visual and literary nature of the medium.
Expanding beyond advertising and marketing to incorporate more comprehensive interpretations of critical literacy is important so students have a greater variety of practice and so they do no get bored. Bludgeoning students with the constant message that advertising has bad messages. Showing them how everything represents and shows different aspects of power and cultural dynamics is necessary. Even educational documentaries have hidden meanings despite their outwardly innocent appearance.
However, learning to recognize power dynamics and infer unstated ideas but also what they can do. Without giving students tools to actively engage with critical literacy they will likely become defeatist or apathetic. How can a student fight against media conglomerations? Teaching them about culture jamming, successful boycotts and other tools will give them actionable ideas so not only will they become critical readers, but they will also be activists.
Pop culture, along with comics, also needs to be taken more seriously. Music, fashion, popular brands, movies and more can all have a large impact on students, and they need this brought to their attention and given opportunities to practice. Focusing only on marketing analysis does students a disservice. Movies, good and bad, allow another way for students to engage in critical readership and since film analysis is not a commonly offered course it seems English Language Arts will need to fill in the gaps.
Critical Literacy encompasses a broad range of materials and ideas so teachers need to be prepared to give students the opportunity to practice it in a variety of ways and within a variety of contexts.
An excellent resource on the starting point for comic analysis is Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.