Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Comic Book Guys

Interesting post on why comic books can be a good way to get some kids to read:

Because of this focus, it’s common and normal for the creative child to come to reading between the ages of 8 and 10 years old, when their brains naturally shift from primarily three-dimensional thinking to be able to take in two-dimensional and symbolic processing, which is what reading entails. Therefore, not only is the time frame of learning to read different from society’s viewpoint, the process to acquire reading differs as well because they prefer a picture-based method such as a sight-word, context-driven resource. And, finally, once the initial reading skill is acquired, the creative learner is drawn to reading materials and resources that are less valued in our society, thus, bringing us back to comic books and other “twaddle.”

Right-brained, creative learners turn every symbol (words, numerals) into pictures. (This is why it is easier for the creative child to learn the word “encyclopedia” than the word “the.” It’s a more visual word.) When they read, they often skim across the top of words in order to “catch the visual” that is important to their comprehension and enjoyment of the reading process. (This is why it’s easier for the creative person to read silently.) Therefore, the right-brained, creative learner is drawn to resources that assist and support them in their particular learning process.

Comic books serve several purposes for children with this learning style. The first is that the resource already supplies the pictures for this learner’s need to “catch the visual.” The reason this is important during their pre-fluency stage of reading is the need to understand what they are reading (in order to enjoy the process by comprehending what they are reading). When they’re not required to create the pictures themselves they can concentrate on interpreting the actual symbols involved in reading.

The second purpose a comic book resource provides is context in figuring out new words. This learning style prefers a “whole-to-part” method to learning (sight words) versus “part-to-whole” (phonics). A creative child will often use the existing pictures to guess or predict the words that will be used in the dialogue. We are conditioned to view this as “cheating” or “less than,” but in actuality, our right-brained children are using their best assets: learning by association and/or context.

We’ve definitely observed this pattern with our eldest son. He has struggled (and still does) with chapter books, but he eats up graphic novels. And lest you harbor under the illusion that comics are nothing more than pulp trash, here are a few of the comic books that he has enjoyed:

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad!

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The first two are stories of historical fiction (with a lot of fact mixed in) from the Revolutionary and Civil wars while the last is the classic Sherlock Holmes adventure. None would qualify as trash not worth reading. And then he also reads this:

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Have you ever read “Moby Dick”? Despite its literary renown and all the cultural references that spring from it, I admit that I have not nor do I have any plans to. Unless that is, I happen to pick up my son’s edition. Maybe.

When I was a kid I too read comics. And yes, some probably were nothing more than worthless mind-numbing entertainment. But I also read comics in the Classics Illustrated series such as “The Three Musketeers,” “Two Years Before the Mast,” “The Time Machine,” “Lord Jim,” “Frankenstein,” “The Invisible Man,” and other timeless tales. They certainly didn’t deter and no doubt likely enhanced my love of reading that continues to this day.