There’s a comic book store in my small town. I never went in it until recently; it’s located right next to the tattoo parlor and gives off a rather shady vibe. Boys lurk about (many tattooed) with paper bags that carry their latest comic-book purchase.
I had always thought those who loved comic books and graphic novels were a small faction of collectors who obsessed over the drawings and the details of vintage Superman stories: kind of like that lazy, overweight, weirdly obsessive guy on The Simpsons.
Other than considering the shop a place I wasn’t particularly interested in entering because its clientele scared me and I’m not really into comic books, I didn’t give it much thought. Now, I’m glad it’s in our small town. Comic books can be literary gems that entice struggling readers into becoming literate, creative, and imaginative beings.
Comic Books are Educational Tools
Comic books are slowly becoming a
respectable literary source in classrooms across the globe.
Teachers are finding it easier to teach writing, grammar and punctuation with material that students are fully invested in. And it turns out that comic books have other built-in advantages. The pairing of visual and written plotlines that they rely on appear to be especially helpful to struggling readers. No one is suggesting that comic books should substitute for traditional books or for standard reading and composition lessons. Teachers who would once have dismissed comics out of hand are learning to exploit a genre that clearly has a powerful hold on young minds. They are using what works.
Boys are especially drawn to comic books and graphic novels for a number of reasons. Here are just a few:
1) Comic books often include adventure stories often involving superheroes.
2) Comic books don’t shy away from violence and therefore they appeal to boys’ aggressive natures.)
3) They like the straight-to-the-point dialogue (no flowery prose or long discussion examining the self.)
4) They include vivid illustrations that appeal to the more visual sex.
5) Comic books are much “cooler” than novels, and boys find reading them is culturally acceptable.
How can librarians and teachers utilize comic books to get boys to read? First, stock them in the classroom. Wouldn’t it be great if school libraries and English classrooms kept a spinning rack of comic books that boys could peruse?
Second, let parents know that comic books are an acceptable form of literature and to either look the other way when their child brings one home (boys may read even more if they think they are being sneaky), or actively encourage the growth of their child’s comic book collection.
Comic books can teach the same basic literary concept that short stories and novels do. Teachers can use comic books to talk about:
- Story arcs
- Onomatopoeia (check out this incredible lesson plan!)
- Word choice
- Antagonists vs. protagonists
- Character development
- Point of View
The Comic Book Project
Dr. Michael Bitz, executive director at the Center for Educational Pathways, created the popular and successful Comic Book Project. The project has children create their own, unique comic books. The goal of the project is to “help children forge an alternative pathway to literacy by writing, designing, and publishing original comic books.” The project has been incorporated into classrooms across the United States. This year, the theme is “Saving Our Planet!” Schools can order classroom kits from the website at www.comicbookproject.org
Comic books can get boys to read AND write. Amazing.
Comics are for all Ages
It is important to note, however, that many comic books are geared toward an adult audience. Teachers and parents need to be careful what they are stocking on their shelves. In fact, the first comic books were written for adults. Check out this amazing website to get the scoop on kid-friendly comics: www.kidslovecomics.com.
And don’t forget to mark May 1st
down on your calendar: it’s free comic book day
! Hundreds of comic-book retailers across America will give away free comic books to anyone who comes into their store! Hey, you could get friends involved and get a great collection of comic books for your school’s library. I wonder if that comic book store in my neighborhood participates?
Comic Books Can Get Boys into the Habit of Reading
Top 20 Childrens’ Comic Books
Comic Books and Literacy