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August 10, 2016


Every month, TAB editor Kristin will be sharing her thoughts on five titles from our… Read More

June 1, 2016

Hooked on Comics Worked for Me!

Comic creator Josh Elder founded the educational nonprofit organization Reading With Pictures to promote the use of comics in the classroom. Today at Book Box Daily, he explains to us exactly why that’s such a good idea.

I was only four years old when comics changed my life forever. My mother (now a school librarian) was reading to me just like she did every night before putting me to bed. Usually that meant a chapter book or some classic kid lit, but that night, for reasons lost to antiquity, I got to choose the reading material. Like any red-blooded American male my age, I chose a comic book. Issue number four of Marvel’s The Transformers, to be precise.

Everything was going great. Right up until halfway through the issue, when Mom finally succumbed to the sore throat she’d been fighting all week. This was completely unacceptable. Optimus Prime was in a lot of danger, and I had to make sure he was going to be OK. So I did the only thing I could do: I used the comic to teach myself how to read so that I could finish the comic.

The comic’s blend of words and pictures functioned as a kind of narrative scaffolding as I worked my way toward literacy. I was able to follow the story through the images alone, and they provided the visual context necessary to reverse-engineer all the words that I didn’t already know. Armed with the right tools and the proper motivation, the whole process took less than two weeks.

Mom was immediately retired as my bedtime reading assistant—with full pension and benefits, of course—while I went on to read everything I could get my hands on: comics, magazines, books…everything. Comics not only taught me how to read, they taught me to love reading. More importantly, the scaffolding process provided by comics continued throughout my academic career, allowing me to continually engage with material far beyond my grade level.

I read at the college level while in elementary school. In middle school, I became a college student after taking the SAT and scoring high enough to gain admission to my local community college. I went on to attend Northwestern University on a National Merit Scholarship and upon graduation I embarked on a successful career as a writer across various media, including magazines, newspapers, video games, novels and, of course, comics.

Long story short: Hooked on comics worked for me. When used properly, comics can do a better job than traditional methods of teaching almost any material. Comics are more engaging, more efficient, and just plain more effective. I founded Reading With Pictures in order to share this insight with educators everywhere.

It’s a bold thesis, I know, but one that my organization is prepared to support by facilitating academic research, training educators in best practices, and designing graphic textbooks that correlate with core standards.

At Reading With Pictures, we’re getting comics into schools and getting schools into comics.

Visit the Reading With Pictures Web site to learn more and find out how you can get involved in the cause.

Check out the following graphic novels on Book Clubs this month!


Bone: Quest for the Spark, Book Two by Tom Sniegoski, illustrated by Jeff Smith
Brody’s Ghost by Mark Crilley
Smile by Raina Telgemeier
Zeus: King of the Gods (Olympians) by George O’Connor


Amulet, Volumes 1–4 by Kazu Kibuishi
Bad Island by Doug TenNapel
Laddertop by Orson Scott Card and Emily Janice Card, illustrated by Honoel A. Ibardolaza (recently selected as one of the Young Adult Library Services Association’s 2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)
Lost & Found by Shaun Tan
Maus, Volumes 1 & 2 by Art Spiegelman
Maximum Ride: The Manga, Volume 4 by James Patterson and NaRae Lee
Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation by Tim Hamilton
Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volumes 1 & 2 by Stephenie Meyer, illustrated by Young Kim

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One Response

  1. Yes!!!! I completely agree especially as the mother of a ten year old boy that wouldn’t read if I didn’t “allow” him to read comics. I’m thankful for them every day!!! Well said.

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