Can comics help teach children to read?
How could anybody even ask? Comics are books. They are words. Not to sound snippy here, but duh. Yes.
No matter what type of parent you are or what type of child you have, I urge you to read this wonderful interview with teacher Chris Wilson, who uses comics for part of his teaching. Chris is a wonderful thinker and educator. No, he doesn't focus on comics. He uses everything and anything to teach reading and literature.
Unless you live under a bushel, you know that the world has changed. People are blogging and tweeting. The written word, which some thought would drop off of the edge of the earth, is back with a vengeance -- but it's changed. Kids text one another all the time. Novels and newspapers haven't died, but communication has splintered into a cloud of shiny particles: IM, video blogs, videos, blogs, tweets, powerpoint presentations, and more.
Comic books bring reading alive.
Comics and the Beginning Reader
For beginning readers, someone brilliant came up with a comic book series called PhonicsComics. My son adored it. So do librarians and teachers. The books are motivating, even for reluctant readers, and fun.
Comics and schools
The Magic of Comics
Right now my son is reading Calvin and Hobbes. Do you remember them? Bill Watterson could really get inside the head of an imaginative kid. My child is enraptured and I strongly suspect that his inner life is just like Calvin's!
So what's good about it?
Well, it's not a video game. How's that?
For my dyslexic child, consider this: Each page is one series of Calvin and Hobbes comics. The pictures are great fun, but for this particular comic, the text adds an entire new dimension. As my son reads his way through the columns, he discovers a really funny joke with each.
"Fixing a faucet is easy. All you do is take it apart, se what's leaking, plug it up, and put it back together.
"Does your mom know you're doing this?"
"Nope. It's going to be a surprise."
"And we all know how she loves surprises."
"I can't get this handle off. Pass me the hacksaw, will you?"
These columns are literally making my kid roll around on the ground and roar with laughter. They give satisfaction immediately and make him want to read more, and Watterson didn't write down to people, either.
Also, my son now knows what "transmogrify" means. How cool is that?
My husband and I adore reading. We have read all of our lives. I'm a full-fledged bookworm and we own thousands and thousands of books. We look at our child now, lying on the floor, nose buried in a book (yes, despite the dyslexia) and it's awesome. He adores stories, and the sly humor and audacity of comics are seducing him into spending time working on his reading.
Don't forget to keep a parental somewhat-dislike of comics. Subversiveness is very powerful, and if your reluctant reader gets a slight frisson from sneaking Calvin and Hobbes books, all the better. Although we have a healthy regard for comics in our household, my son's love affair with them is his own.