When I was growing up, I loved reading comic books. I loved getting lost in the fantasy worlds created by Stan Lee and Marvel Studios. Some of my favorite memories include going to the hobby shop and buying a new comic, pack of trading cards, or action figure. Even now as an adult, I enjoy reading graphic novels and watching the film adaptations of my favorite super heroes. I will go as far to say that anything I read now, that is not related to my studies, comes out of either a graphic novel or Sports Illustrated.
While my interest in comic books initially only went as far as watching my beloved X-Men triumph over the forces of evil, I gradually developed a deeper appreciation for them as I used them as a learning tool. As a young boy, the only leisurely reading I did was through comic books. It was through comic books that I grew my vocabulary. If it were not for comic books, I would have done little to no summer vacation reading. When I got older and was living in Portugal, it was trough comic books that I learned new words and really started to grasp how to speak Portuguese. Because of my comic book education, I learned how to speak like a Portuguese young adult.
Using comic books as a learning tool is a relatively new trend that is gaining steam in education. In the text, “Seeing is Believing,” author Arthur Asa Berger said:
“Educators have discovered that writing textbooks in the form of narratives – novels, detective stories, and comics – is a good way to induce students to learn about various subjects and a growing number of professors have taken to writing textbooks using these formats. The military has also learned that creating manuals in the form of comic books has been effective and they have produced a number of manuals to teach various subjects. The comic strip is a format that Americans are familiar with and used to reading, associating comic strips with pleasure and entertainment. So it makes sense to use this format for educational purposes (Berger, 2008).”
Many people are concerned about the “lowbrow” connotations and lack of challenge that comic strips and comic books present to young readers. But an article published by ParentMap outlined several benefits to allowing comics in the classroom. Their findings included: increased literary inference, accelerated vocabulary, confidence building, and reinvigorating reluctant readers (Shinn, 2010).
Comic books are also effective in the classroom because there are so many genres of comics. Whether children are looking for a funny, sad, sci-fi, fantasy, realistic, Japanese-anime, or a classic American comic strip, there’s a comic to meet every need. In an article on Teach.com, Michael Strom wrote,
“When used to supplement core curriculum, this genre gets students comfortable in literacy and allows them to become autonomous, strong, lifelong readers. And, while the traditional argument stands that comic books should only be used in English classes, a multitude of studies disagree. Comic books are grounded in the idea of sequential thought processes that are mirrored in areas of Science and Math. There are comics that are made specifically for these classroom subjects (Strom, 2014).”
I believe that comics have the unique ability to reach struggling students. Through comics, every young student has the opportunity to be the hero of their own educational adventure. Not only do comics allow students to express their knowledge and comprehension through an alternative medium, but also it helps them feel more comfortable with literacy as a whole (Strom, 2014).
Berger, A. A. (2008). Seeing is believing: An introduction to visual communication (3rd ed.). Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Pub.
MacDonald, H. (2013, July 10). Marvel Targets Younger Readers. Retrieved April 04, 2016, from http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/comics/article/58159-marvel-targets-younger-readers-with-share-your-universe.html
Shinn, L. (2010, January 26). Getting Graphic: Why Comics Are Good for Kids. Retrieved April 04, 2016, from https://www.parentmap.com/article/comic-books-get-kids-reading
Strom, M. (2014, January 17). Turning Struggling Students into Superheroes: Comic Books as Teaching Tools. Retrieved April 04, 2016, from http://teach.com/great-educational-resources/comic-books-in-the-classroom