Comic Books or Comic Waste of Time?

By | June 27, 2005

Stephen Krashen recently wrote this about children’s reading of comic books, typically a pastime derided by parents in Japan, China and Taiwan as bunking off homework, or as meaningless, or as devaluing or undermining traditional reading. Krashen takes a different view… some parents might find this just a tad too ‘dangerous’ for their views. Discretion advised. Certificate T(eacher) requ’d.

Children’s book writer Jack Gantos noted that Jean-Paul Satre "started off reading comic books as a child and that if it wasn’t for comic books, he never would have stuck with books." ("Teachers are getting graphic," May 3).
There are many cases like this. One is Desmond Tutu, who also gives comic the credit being a conduit to literacy. He describes his father as "very patriarchal," but tells us that "One of the things I am most grateful to him for is that, contrary to educational principles, he allowed me to read comics. I think that is how I developed my love for English and for reading." Comic books appear to be a motivator for reading for many youngsters today.

In a study published a few years ago, Joanne Ujiie and I compared heavy, light and non-comic book readers in middle school (ages 10-14). We found that those who read more comics liked reading more, read more in general, and read more books. Thanks to USA Today and writer Greg Toppo for publicizing the contribution of comic books to literacy.

Stephen Krashen

He is writing in response to an article:Teachers are getting graphic published in USA Today. "When the American Library Association invited acclaimed comic book artist Jeff Smith and three fellow artists to its annual meeting in 2002, the quartet huddled beforehand and agreed that this was their best —— and perhaps only — chance to pitch comics to an influential group of tastemakers."