Comics Are Books

Comics can be thought-provoking, border-crossing, emotionally challenging, and everything that no-picture books can be. Any kid who has ever swallowed titles like Anya’s Ghost or Invisible Emmy or A Wrinkle in Time: A Graphic Novel can already tell you that. Some parents, however, could use more persuasive arguments. There is still the idea that comics are not “real” literature, or that they are just gates that help stubborn readers go from picture books to chapter books. But there may be many more. This is why all kids should explore the vast comic universe if they haven’t already.

There is something for everyone

Comics aren’t just about superheroes. You can find fantasy graphic novels for kids and teens in a variety of genres, including science fiction, fantasy, classics, and romance. Also recently, there has been an explosion of documentary graphic novels – children can read about everything from quantum theory to the history of queer thought and LGBTQ + actions to Nietzsche’s epiphanies.

Combining visual and verbal storylines can enhance childhood memories

We are visual creatures – more than 50 percent of the cerebral cortex is devoted to processing visual information, so telling stories through images can help children remember information. One study found that students who read seven pages of comics explaining sleep fundamentals showed a stronger memory of the material than those who read the same material in text format.

The relationship between words and images is very complex

Jin Luen Yang, whose 2008 book American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award, spoke about the evolution of comics in the Big Think video . He explained that in the early days of comics, the format was rather simplistic – the images mostly simply reflected what the words already conveyed. “So you’ll have a signature that says Superman Beats Lex Luthor.” And then in the picture, it just shows Superman hitting Lex Luthor, ”he said.

So the relationship between words and pictures is an art in itself. Perhaps in one passage the text will convey the most important message, and in the next passage the illustrations will take over. Or maybe words and images will contradict each other, and you, the reader, must decide which one is true. The gutters, the gaps that separate the panels, can be used to make readers ponder and reflect on what they just read. This is all discreet and exciting dance and worth analyzing.

Comics talk about diversity

While parents and teachers usually have no problem with literary treasures like Maus, Fun Home, and American Born Chinese , Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Jabari Sellars wants kids to learn good old superheroes too. He believes that they have something to teach us how to be “different.”

On Harvard’s Knowledge Web site , he wrote about a classroom he developed with Chris Claremont’s films X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, The Amazing X-Men by Joss Whedon, and Mark Millar’s Perfect X-Men . At the beginning of the lesson, he asks his students: what is a mutant and who in our society will be considered a mutant? He then helps them make these amazing connections:

… students begin to understand that the X-Men are an allegory of the experiences of marginalized people – non-white, non-male, non-Christian, non-heteronormative – in a repressive society. Digging into the characters and plots of their X-Men comics, they soon find modern and historical parallels.

They find the socio-political ideologies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in the characters of Charles Xavier and Magneto. They recognize the link between stop-and-search policies and “anti-mutant” initiatives in comics. They conclude that there is nothing accidental in the fact that the hot-tempered Mercury with a fickle character or the naive hero Cyclops cannot see the depth of this situation.

As a comics industry, this is where diversity seems to flourish: Beat Comics just published the top 20 graphic novels of 2017 , and 17 of them have included women, Asian or African American members in creative teams.

The narrative changes

The storytelling defies genres. Today’s kids should be able to think in 80,000 word books and 80 character tweets. And they have to take in all kinds of stories told in different ways. The best stories for your kids are just the ones they like.


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