Hamlet' Too Hard? Try a Comic Book


The Christian Science Monitor brings us a story on another approach to get kids to read...the comic book.

Getting reluctant adolescents to read - anything - can be a boon to their discovery of the joy of reading, says Marilyn Reynolds, author of "I Won't Read and You Can't Make Me: Reaching Reluctant Teen Readers." But other experts, such as Diane Ravitch, a professor of education at New York University, says ""Once kids know how to read, there is no good reason to continue to use dumbed-down materials."

Proponents of the "let them read anything" theory suggest that reading comics and graphic novels is in fact reading , something that these kids might not otherwise do, and that it could be a bridge to more complex material.


That would ignore the reality that much of my familiarity with the so-called classics came from Classics Illustrated. And eventually I actually read some of the books (and recognized that I would never, ever read some of the others). Of course, true graphics novels are a tad more sophisticated than Classics Illustrated, but the principle may be similar.

"...and that it could be a bridge to more complex material."Didn't public libraries give up on this idea after a few decades?

Puffin is bringing back the idea of Classics Illustrated:


Just sounds like more dumbing down to me. What ever happened to making kids put their nose to the grindstone and learn?

Doesn't sound like dumbing down to me - there are some very sophisticated graphic novels. I remember reading Moore's 'V for Vendetta' and being intrigued by his namedropping of Pynchon's 'V', which ultimately led me to read Pynchon. I may be an exception, but I think it's definitely true that 'popular' literature can lead one towards classic/highbrow literature.

It's "dumbing down" if the comic books are all that the kids are given to read. It's not "dumbing down" if the comic books are used to make the path to reading more complex material more accessible. (And, as others have pointed out, a lot of "comic books" are in fact quite complex and sophisticated material; it's just that the format is less scary for kids who aren't successful readers yet.)"Making kids put their nose to the grindstone" can force the mastery of the particular material at a particular moment. It _cannot_ give a child the lifelong habit of reading and learning. In order to do that, you have to make reading attractive.And no, no matter what the ghosts of your Puritan ancestors are whispering in your ears, there isn't anything immoral about incorporating fun into the learning process. Any educational system that doesn't give kids BOTH the experience of reading and learning as fun, enjoyable things to do, and the experience of working hard at something even though you'd rather be doing something else--and seeing the rewards that come from that delayed gratification--has cheated the students horribly.

Uhh, Puritan ancestors? Ok, I think I will ignore that pointless remark.

I think that sort of "whatever-goes" mindset is dangerous to the truly educating children instead of just having school as a babysitter with pencils. Perhaps we should instill in children at least a certain amount of respect for education. Sure, they can play around with comic books in their off time (as I did when I was young), but making comics on par with normal education is a farce. We have to teach the young that, sometimes, you have to do stuff that is not fun. And introducing comics as anything other than a quick sidenote can give them a bad impression of a subject.

"Doesn't sound like dumbing down to me"Um, since they are being advocated for those who "may lack the motivation or maturity to succeed in freshman English," I think it is pretty clearly and deliberately a dumbing down.Now, some graphic novels really aren't dumbing down at all. And someone without motivation and maturity won't be able to get through them either, so they wouldn't be used here.And I agree with King Joel (who, being a king CAN'T have puritan ancestors) that if you don't teach that there is a payoff for hard work, kids are never going to go in for hard work.And as far as I know, they don't make scholarly peer-reviewed journals in graphic novel form. Yet.

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