In a couple of months I’ll be a certified K-6 teacher in the State of Florida and a year after that I will have my Master’s Degree and finally enter the workforce. One of my private missions is to increase the acceptance and presence of comics in the classroom. This issue has been coming up a lot lately as my ‘Reading in the Intermediate Grades’ professor is very open to the idea and I’ve been showing her examples from my own collection that I think would be well suited to the classroom. Here are some of the books I’ve presented to her:
Jim Lawson is my favorite illustrator ever but all biases aside this is a great book for a classroom because 1) it’s well-researched, 2) it’s meticulously illustrated, 3) kids love dinosaurs (especially boys, who supposedly don’t like to read as much as girls).
This book really feels like it was made for schools and it probably was. Most of the story takes place in an elementary classroom, the main character is an elementary student living with a non-nuclear family. The main twist is that all of the characters are monsters. This is part of a series of three books.
I know a lot of libraries keep copies Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo series but I don’t think many schools do. However, this is a very intelligent, well-researched series with great art. The whole thing takes place shortly after the Tokugawa Shogunate took power in Japan, meaning the countryside is lousy with out-of-work soldiers that have nothing better to do than make mischief. A perfect series for boys in 4th grade and up but there are a lot of strong female characters for girls to relate to, as well.
Out of everything I’ll list in this post, Jeff Smiths’s Bone is the only property that’s made any actual headway into the classroom, thanks to its republication, in color, by Scholastic. The series starts out like Carl Barks Disney comics and ends up like a darker Lord of the Rings, all with great art. My professor already has a few of the books in her classroom-type library.
Rick Geary has made a career out of portraying horrific crimes in completely dispassionate and analytical ways. He has also created graphic adaptations of several classic novels and biographies. Almost all of his comics are ideal for the classroom given their detailed, thoughtful presentations. However, some of the Victorian Murder books describe rather graphic or REALLY FRIGHTENING situations (like the H.H. Holmes book) while others are rather ho-hum and nonthreatening (like the Death of the Abraham Lincoln book).
In the years leading up to World War II, Dr. Seuss was a political cartoonist and this book collects it all. It’s almost surreal to view illustrations of Hitler by Dr. Seuss but you’ll get over it. This book would be perfect for high school students that are studying the WWII era. I mean, talk about reactivating background knowledge, it’s Dr. Seuss, the guy that drew all of your favorite kids’ stories about cats, elephants and Loraxes!
I think these books are great and don’t require an excuse to be included in the classroom, however if I were forced to justify including them I would say that they can be used to entice reluctant readers into actually giving it a shot. Additionally, they can be used for students that have difficulty with comprehension and visualizing what they read. You don’t want to hold their hands all the time and always use illustrated materials but comics are like movies on paper, sort of a transition between picture books and text-only books (although they can certainly be as sophisticated as a text-only book).
The End (for now)