Michael Lopez, a comic book fan, analyzes a Christian Science Monitor story on teachers using comic books and “graphic novels” like Art Spiegelman’s Maus “to engage struggling and reluctant adolescent readers.”
Adolescent readers face a host of complicated problems, ranging from general reluctance to pick up a book to aliteracy, an inability to fully grasp the meaning of words. Proponents suggest that comic books and graphic novels can help.
For the reluctant reader, they are absorbing. For the struggling reader or the reader still learning English, they offer accessibility: pictures for context, and possibly an alternate path into classroom discussions of higher-level texts. They expand vocabulary, and introduce the ideas of plot, pacing, and sequence.
But such arguments remain unconvincing to many other educators who firmly believe this form of pop culture has no place in the classroom.
“Once kids know how to read, there is no good reason to continue to use dumbed-down materials,” writes Diane Ravitch, a professor of education at New York University, in an e-mail. “They should be able to read poems, novels, essays, books that inform them, enlighten them, broaden their horizons.”
Lopez thinks comic books can broaden readers’ horizons. But he also disagrees with the comic promoters.
The object of education isn’t just to “get someone to read anything.” It can be a useful first step, but the truth of the matter is that one will not get all one should out of comic books if one doesn’t know how to read in the first place.
Once the knowledge of putting together sounds and reading is in place, it’s time to start, you know, reading. And it’s not about finding something that “grabs” a child. It’s not about finding something that they like to read.
If we followed that recipe for child-rearing, dinner would be all ice cream and no vegetables.
He also says “visual learner” is eduspeak for a child who’s watched too much TV.