Stan Lee v. Mark Twain

To quote a favorite rapper of mine, Atmosphere, when I was growing up, "hip hop and comic books were my genesis." And although I learned to read at an early age and was a voracious reader from then on, with respect to Matt Christopher, Roald Dahl and Jerry Spinelli, I think I owe some of my literacy to the comic books I devoured from about age 8 to 14. With that in mind, I was excited to come across this NY Times article, "Superman Finds New Fans Among Reading Instructors".

Before the article came along I had already been thinking of ways to incorporate comic books into my literacy instruction. I know firsthand the ways I learned from comic books (they teach vocabulary for one with characters named Threnody and Zephyr). Now, looking at comic books through the lens of a teacher they seem like a perfect fit for a classroom with struggling readers, many of whom are ELL's.

For one, there's tons of pictures! A story that comes with action-packed art can help with the skill of visualization which is surprisingly hard for most of my students. Then there's the characters. There's so many of them and they're incredibly interesting. Think about the most famous characters such as Bruce Wayne/Batman or Clark Kent/Superman. They have these amazing back stories that provide motivation for their stories. Rich characters are a great tool for helping young readers think about character traits and development.

Comic books are also packed with literary allusions. There are tons of references in the Marvel and DC Universe to myths and legends from all sorts of cultures. Storm from the X-Men, Thor, Aquaman are just a few examples of characters linked to existing myths.

Of course I'm not saying throw out all the amazing children's literature that's out there. But comic books might just be the key to making reading accessible and most importantly fun. If they can, then there's no reason not to use them in every classroom.

Comments

Nicholas said…
As far as comic books, for 4th grade, I'd highly recommend the Bone series by Jeff Smith. I'm a librarian in Rochester, NY (also inner city), and the copies I have are never on the shelves. Good complex story line as well.
Hugh O'Donnell said…
Happy New Year, Ruben!

I love comics. Still read them.

Reading is reading and comics are full of life.

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