Michelle's independent resources for ESL Students at Vancouver Community College

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Comics in the Classroom

When I was a child, my mother absolutely refused to let us read comics. As far as she was concerned it was all junk. She felt that if we read comics about Archie, Superman, Batman, the Green Lantern or any other superhero, we would ruin our minds and never graduate to reading `real`books with important content. Nothing could have
been further from the truth.

Regardless of what my mother thought, every Tuesday when the new batch of comics came in to our small northern Ontario town`s one and only drug store, my brothers and sisters and I could always be found sitting on the floor reading that week`s new comics. We took up a lot of space because there were six of us. It got so bad that the local druggist, who knew us all by name,called my mother and told her to keep her kids at home.

A little complaining didn`t stop us. Instead of going to the drug store, we developed new friends in town - friends who had entire series of comics, hundreds of them - all piled according to which superhero hey represented. There we would sit, again, on the floor, completely ignoring the new friend and reading comic after comic. Now that I think back about it, we really behaved terribly towards these friends.

Reading all those comics did not make a dent in our intelligence, our reading ability, or our interest in reading good books. All my brothers and sisters are reading fanatics. You might say the entire family is composed of bookaholics. It actually gets in the way of other things we should be doing - like housework, or washing the car. .

This brings me to the point of suggesting that comics and Manga novels can be very helpful to new second language readers. To begin with, they have pictures,which half tell the story. Secondly, they will definitely introduce them to new vocabulary, some of which will be very idiomatic. Poor, or reluctant readers might overcome some of their bad habits - backtracking, fixating their eyes, etc, Nor, are they likely to put the book down after one page. In fact, what they will do is read. That is all we as educators want them to do: read, read and discover that reading in English can be fun. It doesn't all have to be boring.

Education professionals all over the US and Canada have begun a conversation about the use of comics as teaching tools, and a number of schools in the US have begun large scale pilot projects.using comics in the classroom. Some schools are having students draw their own cartoons as a way of getting them involved in writing.

I am not taking a stand on any of that. I think it probably has good potential. All I am suggesting is that it might be a good idea for our students - especially our reluctant readers - to try reading a few Manga or other graphic novels for pleasure. Who knows, reading comics might bring a reluctant reader into the reading fold.

I have added a series of links to free online Manga comics and other graphic novels. There are also one or two in the reading links on the side.

This is still a controversial subject for some people. Leave a comment to say whether you like the idea or not, how you have used them yourself, and if they have been successful.


  1. Yes, I agree that comics can help us to learn English. Also, books for babies are another things that help us to become a real English learner because a lot of words in such books are unknown for me.

    By S. Liu

  2. Dear S,
    You are so right, but I wouldn't really call them baby books. These books are read to and by children up to the age of 7 or 8. My own children,who are now aduls, often still like to look at them. Go to any children's section at any Public Library branch in the library. You would be surprised at the incredible variety of books you can find. You can also find many books aimed at older children and young teenagers on a variety of topics from Egypt to how to build table. They are just as interesting as many books in the "adult" section, but they are easier to read.

    PS. Has anyone else tried out manga comics, graphic novels, or children's books? Can you recommend any specific ones?


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