Comic books are a special medium in their ability to appeal to readers of all ages. They can help tell a story without words and also express the most poetic language. In the classroom, comics help achieve a few goals. For emerging readers, comics can help with the sequence of storytelling and learning the basic structure of a story. Once these two aspects of storytelling are understood, and in comics they are mostly unchanged from book to book, then the reader can focus on the content of the story and comprehension.
For older readers, the medium of comic books can help with connecting concepts and visualizing a story. Some stories, such as Franz Kakfa’s The Metamorphosis, can be difficult for students to understand right away. From page one, students may be confused with what is happening in the story. However, when combined with a visual the action of the story becomes more clear. The students then have a wonderful resource to use as they continue to navigate the complex tale of Gregor and his family.
With a large novel, like Pride and Prejudice, a comic can help struggling students quickly review what they have read. Again, having the visuals helps struggling readers immensely. A comic will never replace the actually reading of the novel, but it sure does help a reader see the sequence of events and review what they have already read. For students that have the occasional downtime in class, having a set of classic literature comics gives them something fun and interesting to read. It’s a win-win for student and teacher.
Comics can also bridge the gap between what students already know and new concepts of a novel. Most students have at least watched the current generation of superhero movies, and thus their familiarity with modern superheroes is at an all-time high. Introducing the ideas of Joseph Campbell’s Momomyth becomes a bit easier when we can look at the journey of heroes like Superman and Wolverine.
Again, it’s all about making connections between what students already know and new ideas. The added bonus is that students get to experience amazing stories, incredible artwork, and an ever-expanding, exciting medium of storytelling.