A friend sent me this link and asked if I wanted to comment. Of course.
My first point is that it is odd that article that it trying to argue that comics will increase literacy among young boys starts off with the “Comics aren’t just for kids. There is real literature there too!” I agree with the point, but with caveats. Comics do not have a Tolstoy or a Shakespeare yet. There are works of literature, but no great works, IMO. Yet… Second, most comics are still escapist in nature. Their roots are pulp fiction and they still show their roots. Good literature is there and plentiful, but it does takes some investigation.
Second, I own both Maus and Jimmy Corrigan if anyone is interested.
The next idea I have is on encouraging literacy in children. It is outside the scope of the article, but I contend that if we want children to read the best way is for them to have parents who read. To have parents who read to them. Secondly, if we want them to read for pleasure, they should have parents that read for pleasure. Different children will have different aptitudes and interests of course, but if Mom and Dad never read I don’t think they should be surprised if their child has no interest in it.
Next on the makeup of the books in the library. I wonder if school libraries have changed wince I was a boy? My elementary school had books about dinosaurs, construction, bugs, science, sports, etc. All the things a little boy likes. This isn’t an argument against having comics there – the more material the better, but I’m doubting that the library is only stocking Dostoevsky and St. Aquinas. My interest was the mysteries and I plowed through the Hardy Boys, Three Investigators, and Encyclopedia Brown. Good stuff. I’m not sure there was a fantasy section – I first read my parents copy of the Hobbit not the school’s.
I do love the point that is made that there are two types of literacy in a comic. The standard words and the panel-to-panel transition in the art. It is one of the reasons I love comics. Developing the second type is a skill like any other. There are many adults who cannot/have a hard time follow a comic because they don’t have the second skill. It is not just a throw-away skill either – the same muscles are used for understanding blueprints, maps, flowcharts, etc.
There is also still a lot of people who mix up medium (comic books) with genre (mystery). The predominant genre in comics is super-heroes, but it is certainly not the only genre. Comics exist for children that cross all genres. If you are looking to find a book, talk to your local comic book store owner. In Edmonton we are lucky because we have many good stores. But I will throw a shout-out to my local shop, Wizards Comics and Collectibles on 109th Street. They dedicate a shelf to children’s books and Brandon is knowledgeable about their product and eager to answer questions. It is worth noting though that the average super-hero comic is aimed at an audience of a mid-teen to a college age adult. There may be some content – violence, language, themes – that you may not consider suitable for a younger audience. Most of the major publishers: Marvel, DC, Boom, Bongo and Archie do have comics aimed at children too.
The article lists a number of titles to check out. I have only ever read one of them, Bone. But I do highly recommend it. I own the giant 1000 page black and white version, but Scholastic has issued it in a few different formats and it should be on the shelves in most libraries.
Thanks for the excuse to blather on about comics!