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Can comics help kids learn?

NEWS FACT: In 2001, Teachers College at Columbia University founded the Comic Book Project. The program, which encourages students to create and read comics, has since been expanded to 860 schools nationwide. Dr. Michael Bitz, the project's director, says that students' use of comics enables them to develop their reading skills "in a fun, interactive, and colorful environment."

According to the National Center on Education Statistics, the reading scores of middle- and high-school students in the U.S. have declined slightly over the past decade. Can studying old Disney cartoons and The Adventures of Asterix help kids improve their reading skills? Some parents worry that comics and "dumbed-down" texts may actually be fueling the decline in literacy.

Educators who favor using comics to boost kids' skills and interest in reading argue that pages filled with words often scare students. Illustrations and manageable blocks of text may help them identify story elements, such as structure and tone. Bitz says that this creative approach heightens students' excitement about the learning process.

What Do You Thinks?

Should comics be used as a reading tool?

YES

Jim Borgman, who illustrates the Zits comic strip, says, Students are more tuned in to pictures than words, and comics can help them find their way into reading. It's a great doorway and a friendly invitation into the world of reading."

Neil Hook, a seventh-grader at Saint Agnes School in Clark, New Jersey, tells JS that comics centered around events and "debates going on today, like the [presidential] campaign" could help engage kids in the world around them. "Students should really understand what kind of political things are going on," he adds.

Caleb Wray, a seventh-grader at Humboldt Junior High School in Tennessee, says, "[Comics] should be used in schools because kids can't comprehend some paragraphs [in textbooks]. Comics can help get the point of the lesson across to the student."

NO

Sharan Gwynn, a sixth-grade teacher at Georgetown Middle School in Kentucky, tells JS that a comics-based curriculum "encourages too much reliance on visual items [and not enough on] the written word. Using comics would not teach students the real-life reading skills necessary for textbooks used in college, or guides used for installing programs on the computer."

R.B. Downey is a ninth-grader at Satellite High School in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida. He says that comics can't take the place of textbooks. "Books help students with writing essays and in the preparation for state writing exams and college," he tells JS.

Makayla Reuppel, a fifth-grader at Wright Elementary School in Des Moines, Iowa, says, "Students should have more of a challenge than a comic book. With comic hooks, all you do is look at [illustrations], but in books you get [a lot of] information."
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Title Annotation:Debate
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Date:Mar 31, 2008
Words:457
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