For Captain America, the dream became a reality because of a diabolical villain trying to take over the world and a risky scientific experiment to create a hero who could stop him. (Seriously, though, who would really let strangers stick them in a radiation chamber and inject green slime into their body?!?)
For children who feel like nobodies, though, who struggle everyday, who have to work harder in class than their peers, Captain America might just be the key to unlocking the power to read.
Children like My Renaissance Girl who struggle with severe dyslexia and/or other learning disabilities as well as children who don’t have learning disabilities but are reluctant readers [ImaginationSoup.net] often rely heavily upon illustrations to help them keep track of the storyline. This provides them with the motivation to continue to read, which in turn increases their ability to read, thus increasing their motivation to read…success leading to success…a virtuous circle!
However a problem arises because, while high quality, beautifully illustrated children’s picture books abound, books appropriate for and of interest to older children often are either sparsely illustrated or not illustrated at all.
Enter the comic book!
Comic books, now generally known as graphic novels, have increasingly been finding their way into classrooms and school libraries as teachers search for tools to not only help their students learn how to read, but to tap into the vivid imagination that is the hallmark of childhood and turn their students onto a lifelong love of reading.
The Graphic Classroom founder, Chris Wilson, has made it his mission to seek out excellent graphic novels covering a wide range of subjects and styles and get them into the public education system here in the U.S.
From Da Vinci: The Renaissance Man to The Action Bible, the graphic novel industry has come a long way from the days of Archie and Jughead. The venerable Stan Lee, himself a rags to riches story on the order of his Marvel character, Captain America, is credited with a large portion of the popularity of the ever more sophisticated world of the graphic novel. His relatable characters, real-world storylines, conversational style, and stunning graphic art have contributed immeasurably to the emergence of graphic novels from the dark ages of the dime store shelves to a powerhouse industry with much to offer the literary world.
When it comes to literacy, Stan Lee brought his own superpowers into play with the formation of the Stan Lee Foundation “to do whatever I could to fight illiteracy in children. Any child who grows up illiterate, unable to read and write — or even semi-literate — can be considered handicapped. Competition throughout the world has grown so keen that every young person needs every possible advantage to even the competitive playing field. The ability to read well, to study, comprehend, and process information is absolutely vital for success as an adult.”
Utilizing graphics in teaching reading is certainly not a foreign concept. Picture books for younger children have been used for centuries to interest children in the written word. (Check out this incredibly cool Superhero ABC graphic art novel for early childhood education!) But incorporating art in the form of illustrations and graphics into curriculum for older students seems to be a relatively new and somewhat controversial concept as evidenced by the Common Core State Standards [Education Week] being adopted in all but three states so far which states “the text should be central, and surrounding materials should be included only when necessary, so as not to distract from the text itself.”
Clearly, the object of the Common Core State Standards is to focus on the mechanics of reading, in effect producing students able to read manuals and textbooks, but with no engagement of the heart, no delighting of the soul, no enrichment of the imagination. In short, the purpose seems to be to produce a generation of automatons who can pass a test on Da Vinci, but can’t think or create or imagine or invent like Da Vinci.
When you consider that “Reading correlates with almost every measurement of positive personal and social behavior surveyed, from scholarship and job success to voting and playing sports.” [BookReporter.com], it makes more sense to raise bookworms than to program robots.
Successful reading means far more than possessing the ability to read. Engaging the hearts of students moves reading success beyond a life skill and turns it into a life style. Children who love to read…READ. Adults who love to read…READ. And graphic novels are too powerful of a tool in our arsenal to be disregarded because of pride or prejudice.
Children who love to read…READ! Engaging children’s hearts in the wonder of reading instead of just training their minds in its mechanics. Raising Bookworms
8 Reasons to Let Your Kids Read Comics. Imagination Soup
It’s time for a return to childhood, to simplicity, to running and climbing and laughing in the sunshine, to experiencing happiness instead of being trained for a lifetime of pursuing happiness…it’s time to let children be children again. A Return to Childhood
Think homeschooled children are unsocialized, over-controlled, locked-away-from-the-world misfits? Think again! My Renaissance Girl
L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood , Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages , and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline the first three books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.