Volume 25, Number 4
“Manga Is My Life”
Opportunities (and opportunities missed) for literacy development
As the founder of the Comic Book Project—a literacy initiative for underserved youths—I am often asked if I read comic books as a child. Because the answer is no, I am consistently amazed by children who discover comic books as literature—and equally dismayed by educators who ban such books, chosen by children, from the classroom.This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.
The idea behind the Comic Book Project is simple: children plan, write, design, and produce original comic books, then publish and distribute their work for other children to use as learning and motivational tools. Since its inception in 2001, the project has grown to encompass over 50,000 youths across the country, mostly in high-poverty urban schools and neighborhoods. More than just a fun and motivational project for children, the project is intended to model how creative thinking can bolster academic success. The thousands of comics created by youth participants in the Comic Book Project are a testament to the power of the medium for building conventional literacy skills, including spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, character development, narrative flow, editing, revising, presenting, and publishing—all of the skills that we aim to instill in young readers and writers.
I saw this firsthand in observing a group of students in the afterschool comic book club at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Manhattan over a period of several years. During school, many of these students—African American and Latino teenagers—struggled academically and socially. But after school, when the grade books were closed and the textbooks tossed back into lockers, these same students—so disengaged from the life of the classroom—became highly motivated readers and writers.