Comic books and graphic novels can be used in schools to stir excitement for reading, and to explore and teach a variety of subjects.
Today a panel of educators shared their thoughts about Words and Pictures Together. The hour-long panel was part of a Will Eisner Week event at the San Diego Comic-Con Museum.
Will Eisner was a pioneering cartoonist and writer whose work both inspired and influenced almost every comic artist that followed him. He practically invented the graphic novel. His amazing artwork is legendary. His stories are often complex, surprising, challenging and philosophical. Not unlike great literature.
The panelists at the Comic-Con Museum yesterday discussed how they have used Eisner’s work and other comics in the classroom.
As I sat in the audience listening, I learned there are many benefits to using certain comic books or graphic novels as educational tools.
Perhaps most importantly, they are accessible to young people. Particularly kids who struggle with reading. Those who resist reading or have limited language skills will often turn the pages of a comic, greedily devouring both words and pictures. After all, most comic books and graphic novels are written to engage and excite.
Another benefit can be the development of critical thinking. There are plots to analyze and characters to understand. Allusions and themes can provide subject matter for discussion. Stories that involve historical events or contemporary issues can open a young mind to interesting ideas and questions.
And there is the graphic art itself. Why did the artist make certain choices? The page layout, typography, style, visual point of view . . .
What I found most inspiring was that students can be encouraged to make their own comic art. To tell their own stories. Express their own thoughts and feelings. When you’re a young person, secretly unsure of many things and trying to figure out life, personal expression can help you grow.
By producing their own comic or graphic novel, students also learn how to plan a creative project and execute it. And they write!
What’s more, the opportunity to show their finished art provides a sense of accomplishment!
The panelists mentioned a few works and web pages that you can use or peruse:
The beloved Owly book series for the very young.
Years ago I described how high school students in San Diego were creating their own graphic novel. Their amazing Jasper and the Spirit Skies was launched last year at Comic-Con@Home! You can revisit that past blog post here.
There’s another reason why I found this panel of educators so interesting. Classrooms around the world are reading my short story One Thousand Likes. This small work of fiction (no pictures!) concerns the use of social media and human isolation. Read the story here.