We’re always hearing about how comics are a great tool for literacy (and those among us who learned to read from comics would back this up) but how are comics being accepted in the educational field? The New York Times investigates with an article that includes many yaysayers, but also the most common objections, as it looks at two rather modest programs, including the pilot program rolled out in Baltimore by Diamond and Disney Publishing.
In Maryland, the State Education Department is expanding a new comics-based literacy curriculum, after a small pilot program yielded promising results. In New York City, a group of educators applied to open a new small high school that would be based around a comics theme and named after the creators of Superman; their application was rejected but they plan to try again next year. And the Comic Book Project, a program run out of Teachers College at Columbia University that has children create their own comic strips as an “alternative pathway to literacy,” is catching on. Six years after it started in one Queens elementary school, it has expanded to 860 schools across the country.
BUT SEE ALSO: a recent issue of the New Yorker includes a modestly titled piece called “Twilight of the Books” which discusses the changes to thinking that take place in societies that no longer read:
There’s no reason to think that reading and writing are about to become extinct, but some sociologists speculate that reading books for pleasure will one day be the province of a special “reading class,” much as it was before the arrival of mass literacy, in the second half of the nineteenth century. They warn that it probably won’t regain the prestige of exclusivity; it may just become “an increasingly arcane hobby.” Such a shift would change the texture of society. If one person decides to watch “The Sopranos” rather than to read Leonardo Sciascia’s novella “To Each His Own,” the culture goes on largely as before—both viewer and reader are entertaining themselves while learning something about the Mafia in the bargain. But if, over time, many people choose television over books, then a nation’s conversation with itself is likely to change. A reader learns about the world and imagines it differently from the way a viewer does; according to some experimental psychologists, a reader and a viewer even think differently. If the eclipse of reading continues, the alteration is likely to matter in ways that aren’t foreseeable.
Expect the discussion of literacy, post-literacy and where words and pictures fit in to become even more of a topic of discussion in 2008.