A move towards comic books for fourth graders and beyond. (via The New York Times)
Ms. Mouly started Toon Books, which publishes comics for children as young as 3, in 2008. Its books are listed on several prominent recommended reading lists (including the American Library Association’s) and are included in state and national school programs and initiatives, which is where the teachers who take them into the classrooms often hear about them in the first place. The books are taught across the country, with the help of 200-page illustrated lesson plans that cover topics from literary interpretation and story arcs to “comics as a genre.” Their use in classrooms made immediate sense, given their similarities to the picture books that children that age were already reading in school.
With Toon Graphics, Ms. Mouly said she hoped to extend this learning process to older children. Though the books also have accompanying lesson plans and follow national Common Core standards, the battle for acceptance, Ms. Mouly admits, may be uphill. Plenty of fourth and fifth graders love comics, of course, but that’s also the time when many teachers and parents are trying to wean children off them.
“To develop as readers, kids need a lot of experience processing words,” said Timothy Shanahan, distinguished professor emeritus of urban education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “If a youngster spends an hour reading a comic and an hour reading a book, they’re probably processing a lot more words when they’re reading a book. It’s not that comics are bad, it’s what they might replace.”
With so many different forms of media competing for the attention of children, however, teachers and librarians are increasingly eager to embrace comics in the schools.