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Comic Books in the Classroom

Posted on | Mike Bullard

Comic books used to be considered “junk literature” and were even called “funny books.” But comics have had a come-uppance of late, spurred by the phenomenal box-office draws of big-name superheroes: The Avengers, Batman, Spider-Man, and the X-Men.

But comics aren’t all about superheroes. They can have a place in education as well. Librarians across the country are making room for one of the fastest-growing categories of books — graphic novels, a descendant of the comic book. Many teachers are turning to graphic novels to reach reluctant readers. Other teachers are using graphic novels to teach history. There are even some science teachers benefitting from this graphic medium.

One of the main goals of teaching is to educate. To engage students, teachers will use whatever medium or method necessary to get there — even if the method is unconventional. If comics improve reading skills, help make history more memorable, or teach science in a new visual way, then we should embrace it wholeheartedly.

Whatever your child is currently studying or has an interest in, go online or visit your local bookstore to find a comic book to help your son or daughter understand it better, more deeply, or more vividly. Here are a few great options to get your child started. These are just a few of the choices out there; there are comics on nearly any topic you can imagine.

Ages 5 and up

1 Capstone’s First Graphics Series: This series of books for younger readers feature very simple illustrations with simple text which teach lessons from the digestive system to gravity.

2 Geronimo Stilton Comics: Through this series of books, kids can learn about the US mission to the moon, the discovery of America, or the invention of the printing press

3 Howtoons: These comics are described as part comic strip and part science experiment. The kids in the Howtoons comics are modern-day MacGyvers, building everything from homemade bottle rockets to marshallow shooters.

Ages 7 and up

1 Boys of Steel: This rendition of the story of the men who created the greatest of all superheroes, Superman, is visually told in the style of comic book art of the 1930’s but meant for a modern audience.

2 Capstone’s Graphic Library: These comics vary wildly in subject matter but always have something great to teach, from the science of baseball to important figures from history. Not all titles in this series are non-fiction, though, as this series also has stories focusing on aliens and bigfoot.

3 The Children’s Comic Book Old Testament and New Testament: These are simplified versions of the Bible presented visually and geared toward younger kids. It may spark many questions, leading to great conversations about the Bible with your children.

4 Spectra Comics: Yes, it is possible to teach some lessons in physics to kids. This series teaches some simple concepts in physics in a unique and engaging way.

Ages 10 and up

1 The Action Bible: This is hands-down the best comic adaptation of the Bible out there. For kids that can’t get enough, there are also versions of The New Testament, the story of creation, and more.

2 Reading With Pictures: Comics That Make Kids Smarter: This book features a number of short stories which each address specific learning concepts in math, science, language arts and more. Kids can learn about the Gutenberg Press, Newton’s Laws of Motion, prime numbers, George Washington and others.

3 Laika: This story about an abandoned puppy who was selected for the Soviet space program, is an emotionally charged story of a dog who becomes a hero to a nation. (Note: Sensitive kids may not be able to handle the fact that Laika does not ever return from space.)

Ages 12 and up

1 Maus: This is a story about the Holocaust. This book is written from the perspective of the child of a survivor. It is very difficult subject to tackle, but the writer handles it by portraying the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats. Even in this form, the results can be unsettling, but for older readers looking to learn more about the Holocaust, this is a must-read.

2 Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War: A very cinematic comic that focuses onpersonal stories to tell the horrors of the Civil War. The complex and layered stories it tells are presented in an engaging way. There is some blood here, but it is in the context of war.

3 The Great American Dust Bowl: The 200-mile long dust bowl that devastated the high plains from Wyoming to the Dakotas some 80 years ago. The visual depictions of the devastation feel more like a Hollywood disaster movie and less like the history that it is.



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