Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Comic Books in School

Since I was talking about comic books in our homeschooling I thought I should mention what sparked the post. Newsarama has a post on a middle school that offers a class on graphic novels. Click through to the comments on the story at The St. Paul Pioneer Press and you'll find a bunch of people who know not one damn thing about comic books but yet feel they can comment.

The only one who should use a graphic novel in school might be K-2, to ensure competence and retention of the new language. Anyone beyond that grade should be reading progressively higher forms of English text. What will they all do when they have to read Legal and Medical journals; convert them into Graphic Novels; oh I forgot, we won't be producing any Doctors or Lawyers or Engineers, because THEY CAN'T READ!

Him I want to hit.

Regardless, I think I agree with the ignorant naysayers for this reason - Put comic books in school and you'll squash any interest in them. There's a reason most people seem to think classic literature, history, science and math are boring.


Lizabeth said...

I don't agree that putting comics in school will instantly squash interest. I used to have graphic novel versions of Greek myths, classic stories, as well as more classic comic books in my classroom when I was a teacher, and the kids dug them. Admittedly, in my classroom, there was no assigned reading, but rather kids were expected to choose their own reading material. The kids who weren't interested in the stuff didn't read it.

Dawn said...

I think the fact that you gave kids the the freedom to read them is important. If you taught a class that deconstructed the symbolism, nemed hero archtypes and labeled the types of panels then I thnk it might be a different matter.:)

Lizabeth said...

Yes, I think it all boils down to choice. Probably I could even hate going to the beach if I HAD to do it. Well, maybe not that. But you get the idea. We can ruin almost anything by making it compulsory.

Shaun said...

As Lizabeth knows, one of my best friends teaches a college class on comics! So someone somewhere thinks there's something going on there.

I recently finished Alison Bechdel's Fun Home -- as much to talk about there, just with respect to how she uses the form, as there would be with any good non-graphic novel.

Last year sometime my daughter started digging manga, which required a little mental adjustment in how to move through the panels all over again.

Are you from St. Paul too, or is that just a coincidence?

Dawn said...

Nope. I'm just a reader of the Newsarama blog on comic book news and they had the link. :D

I'm pretty much a straight laced superhero fan myself although I think Archie was what initially built up my comic book literacy skills!

lori said...

I too worry that the "school" version of reading comics might just kill kids' natural love of them. I borrowed one from our library a couple of weeks ago that had been published so obviously for the school market. At the end of the story, there was a glossary and two pages of discussion questions! For a comic about two kid aliens who fly to earth in a washing-machine-like ship and land in a laundromat. I almost died.

But, interestingly, when I flipped to the page with the questions (not knowing they were there) my son asked me, "What's that?" so I told him it was a bunch of silly questions and tried to move us on to the next book. But he asked me to read them. So, one by one we went through those questions and he answered them. He didn't mind at all and would have kept answering them if there had been more.

But I also think the difference between home and school will matter. I didn't "correct" any of his answers or tell him he was wrong. I didn't tell him what I thought. I just let him tell me what he thought (why a certain character did something, what the differences were between the two main characters, etc.) and we chatted about his ideas, and that was that.

In school, would someone have told him he was wrong? Or that he didn't really understand the story? And if so, how would that make him feel about reading comics in particular but also reading in general?

But I ramble....

If you don't already, you can also check out Comics In the Classroom and The Graphic Classroom.

Mister Teacher said...

Being a superhero lover myself, I totally agree that kids should get to read comics in class (during appropriate reading times, that is -- NOT when I'm going over estimation).
I hope to do a Mr. Teacher column over on in the next few weeks about What I've Learned from Comic Books. Think of all the extended vocabulary, not to mention the lessons about the dangers of cosmic radiation! :)

Dawn said...

They're excellent for getting a great sense of plot, story-arcs and drama. They're more like portable plays then books!

Kelly - PTT said...

Very interesting. My 5th-grade daughter is an avid reader of high-level chapter books. But she loved reading the new graphic novel (diary of a .... - can't remember!) She wants to read the second one too . I think whatever their reading doesn't matter as much as the fact they DO.

I used to be a homeschooler too -

Here via COE - my Flat Stanley post was included also.

jose said...

I'm not sure if people are aware of the changes happening these days, but comic books are now being bought as graphic novels, and with that advent, means that now authors have to write complete storylines, and compelling ones for that matter. I've seen some literati pick up a few of those, too, reveling in the Marvel's Registration Act series, and yet some knucklehead wants to lift his nose at comic books because he thinks it's too childish. Ugh!

loonyhiker said...

I love to teach novels using comics! My students love to create comics which in turn helps their reading. For teenagers, this outlet helps them share their feelings and frustrations. As an adult, I still love to read comics.